PASSAGES FROM THE FRENCH AND ITALIAN NOTE-BOOKS, VOLUME I and II
Hotel de Louvre, January 6th, 1858.--On Tuesday morning, our
dozen trunks and half-dozen carpet-bags being already packed and labelled, we
began to prepare for our journey two or three hours before light. Two cabs were
at the door by half past six, and at seven we set out for the
At Folkestone, we were deposited at a railway station close upon a shingly beach, on which the sea broke in foam, and which J----- reported as strewn with shells and star-fish; behind was the town, with an old church in the midst; and, close, at hand, the pier, where lay the steamer in which we were to embark. But the air was so wintry, that I had no heart to explore the town, or pick up shells with J----- on the beach; so we kept within doors during the two hours of our stay, now and then looking out of the windows at a fishing-boat or two, as they pitched and rolled with an ugly and irregular motion, such as the British Channel generally communicates to the craft that navigate it.
At about one o'clock we went on board, and were soon under
steam, at a rate that quickly showed a long line of the white cliffs of
As we increased our distance from England, the French coast
came more and more distinctly in sight, with a low, wavy outline, not very well
worth looking at, except because it was the coast of France. Indeed, I looked at it but little; for the
wind was bleak and boisterous, and I went down into the cabin, where I found
the fire very comfortable, and several people were
stretched on sofas in a state of placid wretchedness. . . . . I have never
suffered from sea-sickness, but had been somewhat apprehensive of this rough
We had feet-warmers in the carriage, but the cold crept in
nevertheless; and I do not remember hardly in my life a more disagreeable short
journey than this, my first advance into French territory. My impression of
Weary and frost-bitten,--morally, if not physically,--we reached Amiens in three or four hours, and here I underwent much annoyance from the French railway officials and attendants, who, I believe, did not mean to incommode me, but rather to forward my purposes as far as they well could. If they would speak slowly and distinctly I might understand them well enough, being perfectly familiar with the written language, and knowing the principles of its pronunciation; but, in their customary rapid utterance, it sounds like a string of mere gabble. When left to myself, therefore, I got into great difficulties. . . . . It gives a taciturn personage like myself a new conception as to the value of speech, even to him, when he finds himself unable either to speak or understand.
Finally, being advised on all hands to go to the Hotel du Rhin, we were carried thither in an omnibus, rattling over a rough pavement, through an invisible and frozen town; and, on our arrival, were ushered into a handsome salon, as chill as a tomb. They made a little bit of a wood-fire for us in a low and deep chimney-hole, which let a hundred times more heat escape up the flue than it sent into the room.
In the morning we sallied forth to see the cathedral.
The aspect of the old French town was very different from anything English; whiter, infinitely cleaner; higher and narrower houses, the entrance to most of which seeming to be through a great gateway, affording admission into a central court-yard; a public square, with a statue in the middle, and another statue in a neighboring street. We met priests in three-cornered hats, long frock-coats, and knee-breeches; also soldiers and gendarmes, and peasants and children, clattering over the pavements in wooden shoes.
It makes a great impression of outlandishness to see the
signs over the shop doors in a foreign tongue.
If the cold had not been such as to dull my sense of novelty, and make
all my perceptions torpid, I should have taken in a set of new impressions, and
enjoyed them very much. As it was, I
cared little for what I saw, but yet had life enough left to enjoy the
It stands in the midst of the cold, white town, and has a
high-shouldered look to a spectator accustomed to the minsters of
While we were in the cathedral, we saw several persons kneeling at their devotions on the steps of the chancel and elsewhere. One dipped his fingers in the holy water at the entrance: by the by, I looked into the stone basin that held it, and saw it full of ice. Could not all that sanctity at least keep it thawed? Priests--jolly, fat, mean-looking fellows, in white robes--went hither and thither, but did not interrupt or accost us.
There were other peculiarities, which I suppose I shall see more of in my visits to other churches, but now we were all glad to make our stay as brief as possible, the atmosphere of the cathedral being so bleak, and its stone pavement so icy cold beneath our feet. We returned to the hotel, and the chambermaid brought me a book, in which she asked me to inscribe my name, age, profession, country, destination, and the authorization under which I travelled. After the freedom of an English hotel, so much greater than even that of an American one, where they make you disclose your name, this is not so pleasant.
At five we reached
We might have dined at the table d'hote, but preferred the restaurant connected with and within the hotel. All the dishes were very delicate, and a vast change from the simple English system, with its joints, shoulders, beefsteaks, and chops; but I doubt whether English cookery, for the very reason that it is so simple, is not better for men's moral and spiritual nature than French. In the former case, you know that you are gratifying your animal needs and propensities, and are duly ashamed of it; but, in dealing with these French delicacies, you delude yourself into the idea that you are cultivating your taste while satisfying your appetite. This last, however, it requires a good deal of perseverance to accomplish.
In the cathedral at
Hotel de Louvre, January 8th.--It was so fearfully cold this
morning that I really felt little or no curiosity to see the city. . . . .
Until after one o'clock, therefore, I knew nothing of
After one o'clock we all went out and walked along the Rue de Rivoli. . . . . We are here, right in the midst of Paris, and close to whatever is best known to those who hear or read about it,--the Louvre being across the street, the Palais Royal but a little way off, the Tuileries joining to the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde just beyond, verging on which is the Champs Elysees. We looked about us for a suitable place to dine, and soon found the Restaurant des Echelles, where we entered at a venture, and were courteously received. It has a handsomely furnished saloon, much set off with gilding and mirrors; and appears to be frequented by English and Americans; its carte, a bound volume, being printed in English as well as French. . . . .
It was now nearly four o'clock, and too late to visit the
galleries of the Louvre, or to do anything else but walk a little way along the
street. The splendor of
We had time only to take this little walk, when it began to
grow dusk; and, being so pitilessly cold, we hurried back to our hotel. Thus far, I think, what I have seen of
A great part of this architectural splendor is due to the present Emperor, who has wrought a great change in the aspect of the city within a very few years. A traveller, if he looks at the thing selfishly, ought to wish him a long reign and arbitrary power, since he makes it his policy to illustrate his capital with palatial edifices, which are, however, better for a stranger to look at, than for his own people to pay for.
We have spent to-day chiefly in seeing some of the galleries of the Louvre. I must confess that the vast and beautiful edifice struck me far more than the pictures, sculpture, and curiosities which it contains,--the shell more than the kernel inside; such noble suites of rooms and halls were those through which we first passed, containing Egyptian, and, farther onward, Greek and Roman antiquities; the walls cased in variegated marbles; the ceilings glowing with beautiful frescos; the whole extended into infinite vistas by mirrors that seemed like vacancy, and multiplied everything forever. The picture-rooms are not so brilliant, and the pictures themselves did not greatly win upon me in this one day. Many artists were employed in copying them, especially in the rooms hung with the productions of French painters. Not a few of these copyists were females; most of them were young men, picturesquely mustached and bearded; but some were elderly, who, it was pitiful to think, had passed through life without so much success as now to paint pictures of their own.
From the pictures we went into a suite of rooms where are
preserved many relics of the ancient and later kings of
Hotel de Louvre, January 9th.--. . . . Last evening Mr.
Fezaudie called. He spoke very freely respecting the Emperor and the hatred
entertained against him in
This morning Miss ------, the celebrated astronomical lady, called. She had brought a letter of introduction to me, while consul; and her purpose now was to see if we could take her as one of our party to Rome, whither she likewise is bound. We readily consented, for she seems to be a simple, strong, healthy-humored woman, who will not fling herself as a burden on our shoulders; and my only wonder is that a person evidently so able to take care of herself should wish to have an escort.
We issued forth at about eleven, and went down the Rue St. Honore, which is narrow, and has houses of five or six stories on either side, between which run the streets like a gully in a rock. One face of our hotel borders and looks on this street. After going a good way, we came to an intersection with another street, the name of which I forget; but, at this point, Ravaillac sprang at the carriage of Henry IV. and plunged his dagger into him. As we went down the Rue St. Honore, it grew more and more thronged, and with a meaner class of people. The houses still were high, and without the shabbiness of exterior that distinguishes the old part of London, being of light-colored stone; but I never saw anything that so much came up to my idea of a swarming city as this narrow, crowded, and rambling street.
Thence we turned into the Rue St. Denis, which is one of the
oldest streets in
Through some other indirections we at last found the Rue
Bergere, down which I went with J----- in quest of Hottinguer et Co., the
bankers, while the rest of us went along the Boulevards, towards the Church of
the Madeleine. . . . . This business accomplished, J----- and I threaded our
way back, and overtook the rest of the party, still a good distance from the
Madeleine. I know not why the Boulevards
are called so. They are a succession of
broad walks through broad streets, and were much thronged with people, most of whom appeared to be bent more on pleasure than
business. The sun, long before this, had
come out brightly, and gave us the first genial and comfortable sensations
which we have had in
Approaching the Madeleine, we found it a most beautiful church, that might have been adapted from Heathenism to
Catholicism; for on each side there is a range of magnificent pillars,
unequalled, except by those of the Parthenon.
A mourning-coach, arrayed in black and silver, was drawn up at the
steps, and the front of the church was hung with black cloth, which covered the
whole entrance. However, seeing the
people going in, we entered along with them.
Glorious and gorgeous is the Madeleine.
The entrance to the nave is beneath a most stately arch; and three
arches of equal height open from the nave to the side aisles; and at the end of
the nave is another great arch, rising, with a vaulted half-dome, over the high
altar. The pillars supporting these
arches are Corinthian, with richly sculptured capitals; and wherever gilding
might adorn the church, it is lavished like sunshine; and within the sweeps of
the arches there are fresco paintings of sacred subjects, and a beautiful
picture covers the hollow of the vault over the altar; all this, besides much
sculpture; and especially a group above and around the high altar, representing
the Magdalen smiling down upon angels and archangels, some of whom are
kneeling, and shadowing themselves with their heavy marble wings. There is no such thing as making my page glow
with the most distant idea of the magnificence of this church, in its details
and in its whole. It was founded a
hundred or two hundred years ago; then Bonaparte contemplated transforming it
When we entered we saw a crowd of people, all pressing forward towards the high altar, before which burned a hundred wax lights, some of which were six or seven feet high; and, altogether, they shone like a galaxy of stars. In the middle of the nave, moreover, there was another galaxy of wax candles burning around an immense pall of black velvet, embroidered with silver, which seemed to cover, not only a coffin, but a sarcophagus, or something still more huge. The organ was rumbling forth a deep, lugubrious bass, accompanied with heavy chanting of priests, out of which sometimes rose the clear, young voices of choristers, like light flashing out of the gloom. The church, between the arches, along the nave, and round the altar, was hung with broad expanses of black cloth; and all the priests had their sacred vestments covered with black. They looked exceedingly well; I never saw anything half so well got up on the stage. Some of these ecclesiastical figures were very stately and noble, and knelt and bowed, and bore aloft the cross, and swung the censers in a way that I liked to see. The ceremonies of the Catholic Church were a superb work of art, or perhaps a true growth of man's religious nature; and so long as men felt their original meaning, they must have been full of awe and glory. Being of another parish, I looked on coldly, but not irreverently, and was glad to see the funeral service so well performed, and very glad when it was over. What struck me as singular, the person who performed the part usually performed by a verger, keeping order among the audience, wore a gold-embroidered scarf, a cocked hat, and, I believe, a sword, and had the air of a military man.
Before the close of the service a contribution-box--or, rather, a black velvet bag--was handed about by this military verger; and I gave J----- a franc to put in, though I did not in the least know for what.
Issuing from the church, we inquired of two or three persons who was the distinguished defunct at whose obsequies we had been assisting, for we had some hope that it might be Rachel, who died last week, and is still above ground. But it proved to be only a Madame Mentel, or some such name, whom nobody had ever before heard of. I forgot to say that her coffin was taken from beneath the illuminated pall, and carried out of the church before us.
When we left the Madeleine we took our way to the Place de la Concorde, and thence through the Elysian Fields (which, I suppose, are the French idea of heaven) to Bonaparte's triumphal arch. The Champs Elysees may look pretty in summer; though I suspect they must be somewhat dry and artificial at whatever season,--the trees being slender and scraggy, and requiring to be renewed every few years. The soil is not genial to them. The strangest peculiarity of this place, however, to eyes fresh from moist and verdant England, is, that there is not one blade of grass in all the Elysian Fields, nothing but hard clay, now covered with white dust. It gives the whole scene the air of being a contrivance of man, in which Nature has either not been invited to take any part, or has declined to do so. There were merry-go-rounds, wooden horses, and other provision for children's amusements among the trees; and booths, and tables of cakes, and candy-women; and restaurants on the borders of the wood; but very few people there; and doubtless we can form no idea of what the scene might become when alive with French gayety and vivacity.
As we walked onward the Triumphal Arch began to loom up in
the distance, looking huge and massive, though still a long way off. It was not, however,
till we stood almost beneath it that we really felt the grandeur of this great
arch, including so large a space of the blue sky in its airy sweep. At a distance it impresses the spectator with
its solidity; nearer, with the lofty vacancy beneath it. There is a spiral staircase within one of its
immense limbs; and, climbing steadily upward, lighted by a lantern which the
doorkeeper's wife gave us, we had a bird's-eye view of
On our way homeward we visited the Place Vendome, in the centre of which is a tall column, sculptured from top to bottom, all over the pedestal, and all over the shaft, and with Napoleon himself on the summit. The shaft is wreathed round and roundabout with representations of what, as far as I could distinguish, seemed to be the Emperor's victories. It has a very rich effect. At the foot of the column we saw wreaths of artificial flowers, suspended there, no doubt, by some admirer of Napoleon, still ardent enough to expend a franc or two in this way.
Hotel de Louvre, January 10th.--We had purposed going to the Cathedral of Notre Dame to-day, but the weather and walking were too unfavorable for a distant expedition; so we merely went across the street to the Louvre. . . . . .
Our principal object this morning was to see the pencil drawings by eminent artists. Of these the Louvre has a very rich collection, occupying many apartments, and comprising sketches by Annibale Caracci, Claude, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michel Angelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, and almost all the other great masters, whether French, Italian, Dutch, or whatever else; the earliest drawings of their great pictures, when they had the glory of their pristine idea directly before their minds' eye,--that idea which inevitably became overlaid with their own handling of it in the finished painting. No doubt the painters themselves had often a happiness in these rude, off-hand sketches, which they never felt again in the same work, and which resulted in disappointment, after they had done their best. To an artist, the collection must be most deeply interesting: to myself, it was merely curious, and soon grew wearisome.
In the same suite of apartments, there is a collection of miniatures, some of them very exquisite, and absolutely lifelike, on their small scale. I observed two of Franklin, both good and picturesque, one of them especially so, with its cloud-like white hair. I do not think we have produced a man so interesting to contemplate, in many points of view, as he. Most of our great men are of a character that I find it impossible to warm into life by thought, or by lavishing any amount of sympathy upon them. Not so Franklin, who had a great deal of common and uncommon human nature in him.
Much of the time, while my wife was looking at the drawings,
I sat observing the crowd of Sunday visitors.
They were generally of a lower class than those of week-days; private
soldiers in a variety of uniforms, and, for the most part, ugly little men, but
decorous and well behaved. I saw medals on many of their breasts, denoting
Crimean service; some wore the English medal, with Queen
I was wearied to death with the drawings, and began to have
that dreary and desperate feeling which has often come upon me when the sights
last longer than my capacity for receiving them. As our time in
By this time poor J----- (who, with his taste for art yet undeveloped, is the companion of all our visits to sculpture and picture galleries) was wofully hungry, and for bread we had given him a stone,--not one stone, but a thousand. We returned to the hotel, and it being too damp and raw to go to our Restaurant des Echelles, we dined at the hotel. In my opinion it would require less time to cultivate our gastronomic taste than taste of any other kind; and, on the whole, I am not sure that a man would not be wise to afford himself a little discipline in this line. It is certainly throwing away the bounties of Providence, to treat them as the English do, producing from better materials than the French have to work upon nothing but sirloins, joints, joints, steaks, steaks, steaks, chops, chops, chops, chops! We had a soup to-day, in which twenty kinds of vegetables were represented, and manifested each its own aroma; a fillet of stewed beef, and a fowl, in some sort of delicate fricassee. We had a bottle of Chablis, and renewed ourselves, at the close of the banquet, with a plate of Chateaubriand ice. It was all very good, and we respected ourselves far more than if we had eaten a quantity of red roast beef; but I am not quite sure that we were right. . . . .
Among the relics of kings and princes, I do not know that there was anything more interesting than a little brass cannon, two or three inches long, which had been a toy of the unfortunate Dauphin, son of Louis XVI. There was a map,--a hemisphere of the world,--which his father had drawn for this poor boy; very neatly done, too. The sword of Louis XVI., a magnificent rapier, with a beautifully damasked blade, and a jewelled scabbard, but without a hilt, is likewise preserved, as is the hilt of Henry IV.'s sword. But it is useless to begin a catalogue of these things. What a collection it is, including Charlemagne's sword and sceptre, and the last Dauphin's little toy cannon, and so much between the two!
Hotel de Louvre, January 11th.--This was another chill, raw
day, characterized by a spitefulness of atmosphere which I do not remember ever
to have experienced in my own dear country.
We meant to have visited the Hotel des Invalides, but J----- and I
walked to the
and I returned along the Champs Elysees, and, crossing the
Though the day was so disagreeable, we thought it best not to lose the remainder of it, and therefore set out to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We took a fiacre in the Place de Carousel, and drove to the door. On entering, we found the interior miserably shut off from view by the stagings erected for the purpose of repairs. Penetrating from the nave towards the chancel, an official personage signified to us that we must first purchase a ticket for each grown person, at the price of half a franc each. This expenditure admitted us into the sacristy, where we were taken in charge by a guide, who came down upon us with an avalanche or cataract of French, descriptive of a great many treasures reposited in this chapel. I understood hardly more than one word in ten, but gathered doubtfully that a bullet which was shown us was the one that killed the late Archbishop of Paris, on the floor of the cathedral. [But this was a mistake. It was the archbishop who was killed in the insurrection of 1848. Two joints of his backbone were also shown.] Also, that some gorgeously embroidered vestments, which he drew forth, had been used at the coronation of Napoleon I. There were two large, full-length portraits hanging aloft in the sacristy, and a gold or silver gilt, or, at all events, gilt image of the Virgin, as large as life, standing on a pedestal. The guide had much to say about these, but, understanding him so imperfectly, I have nothing to record.
The guide's supervision of us seemed not to extend beyond this sacristy, on quitting which he gave us permission to go where we pleased, only intimating a hope that we would not forget him; so I gave him half a franc, though thereby violating an inhibition on the printed ticket of entrance.
We had been much disappointed at first by the apparently narrow limits of the interior of this famous church; but now, as we made our way round the choir, gazing into chapel after chapel, each with its painted window, its crucifix, its pictures, its confessional, and afterwards came back into the nave, where arch rises above arch to the lofty roof, we came to the conclusion that it was very sumptuous. It is the greatest of pities that its grandeur and solemnity should just now be so infinitely marred by the workmen's boards, timber, and ladders occupying the whole centre of the edifice, and screening all its best effects. It seems to have been already most richly ornamented, its roof being painted, and the capitals of the pillars gilded, and their shafts illuminated in fresco; and no doubt it will shine out gorgeously when all the repairs and adornments shall be completed. Even now it gave to my actual sight what I have often tried to imagine in my visits to the English cathedrals,--the pristine glory of those edifices, when they stood glowing with gold and picture, fresh from the architects' and adorners' hands.
The interior loftiness of Notre Dame, moreover, gives it a sublimity which would swallow up anything that might look gewgawy in its ornamentation, were we to consider it window by window, or pillar by pillar. It is an advantage of these vast edifices, rising over us and spreading about us in such a firmamental way, that we cannot spoil them by any pettiness of our own, but that they receive (or absorb) our pettiness into their own immensity. Every little fantasy finds its place and propriety in them, like a flower on the earth's broad bosom.
When we emerged from the cathedral, we found it beginning to rain or snow, or both; and, as we had dismissed our fiacre at the door, and could find no other, we were at a loss what to do. We stood a few moments on the steps of the Hotel Dieu, looking up at the front of Notre Dame, with its twin towers, and its three deep-pointed arches, piercing through a great thickness of stone, and throwing a cavern-like gloom around these entrances. The front is very rich. Though so huge, and all of gray stone, it is carved and fretted with statues and innumerable devices, as cunningly as any ivory casket in which relics are kept; but its size did not so much impress me. . . . .
Hotel de Louvre, January 12th.--This has been a bright day
as regards weather; but I have done little or nothing worth recording. After breakfast, I set out in quest of the
consul, and found him up a court, at 51 Rue Caumartin, in an office rather
smaller, I think, than mine at Liverpool; but, to say the truth, a little
better furnished. I was received in the
outer apartment by an elderly, brisk-looking man, in whose air, respectful and
subservient, and yet with a kind of authority in it, I recognized the
vice-consul. He introduced me to Mr.
------, who sat writing in an inner room; a very gentlemanly, courteous, cool man of the world, whom I should take to be
an excellent person for consul at
Afterwards I walked to Notre Dame, the rich front of which I
viewed with more attention than yesterday.
There are whole histories, carved in stone figures, within the vaulted
arches of the three entrances in this west front, and twelve apostles in a row
above, and as much other sculpture as would take a month to see. We then walked quite round it, but I had no
sense of immensity from it, not even that of great height, as from many of the
I must again speak of the horrible muddiness, not only of
this part of the city, but of all
After dinner I walked through the gardens of the Tuileries;
but as dusk was coming on, and as I was afraid of being shut up within the iron
railing, I did not have time to examine them particularly. There are wide, intersecting walks,
fountains, broad basins, and many statues; but almost the whole surface of the
gardens is barren earth, instead of the verdure that would beautify an English
pleasure-ground of this sort. In the
summer it has doubtless an agreeable shade; but at this season the naked
branches look meagre, and sprout from slender trunks. Like the trees in the
Hotel d'Angleterre, January 15th.--On Tuesday morning, (12th) we took our departure from the Hotel de Louvre. It is a most excellent and perfectly ordered hotel, and I have not seen a more magnificent hall, in any palace, than the dining-saloon, with its profuse gilding, and its ceiling, painted in compartments; so that when the chandeliers are all alight, it looks a fit place for princes to banquet in, and not very fit for the few Americans whom I saw scattered at its long tables.
By the by, as we drove to the railway, we passed through the public square, where the Bastille formerly stood; and in the centre of it now stands a column, surmounted by a golden figure of Mercury (I think), which seems to be just on the point of casting itself from a gilt ball into the air. This statue is so buoyant, that the spectator feels quite willing to trust it to the viewless element, being as sure that it would be borne up as that a bird would fly.
Our first day's journey was wholly without interest, through
a country entirely flat, and looking wretchedly brown and barren. There were rows of trees, very slender, very
prim and formal; there was ice wherever there happened to be any water to form
it; there were occasional villages, compact little streets, or masses of stone
or plastered cottages, very dirty and with gable ends and earthen roofs; and a
succession of this same landscape was all that we saw, whenever we rubbed away
the congelation of our breath from the carriage windows. Thus we rode on, all day long, from eleven
o'clock, with hardly a five minutes' stop, till long after dark, when we came
As this hotel was a little off the direct route of the
omnibus, the driver set us down at the corner of a street, and pointed to some
lights, which he said designated the Hotel do Provence; and thither we
proceeded, all seven of us, taking along a few carpet-bags and shawls, our
equipage for the night. The porter of
the hotel met us near its doorway, and ushered us through an arch, into the
inner quadrangle, and then up some old and worn steps,--very broad, and
appearing to be the principal staircase.
At the first landing-place, an old woman and a waiter or two received
us; and we went up two or three more flights of the same broad and worn stone staircases. What we could see of the house looked very
old, and had the musty odor with which I first became acquainted at
After ascending to the proper level, we were conducted along a corridor, paved with octagonal earthen tiles; on one side were windows, looking into the courtyard, on the other doors opening into the sleeping-chambers. The corridor was of immense length, and seemed still to lengthen itself before us, as the glimmer of our conductor's candle went farther and farther into the obscurity. Our own chamber was at a vast distance along this passage; those of the rest of the party were on the hither side; but all this immense suite of rooms appeared to communicate by doors from one to another, like the chambers through which the reader wanders at midnight, in Mrs. Radcliffe's romances. And they were really splendid rooms, though of an old fashion, lofty, spacious, with floors of oak or other wood, inlaid in squares and crosses, and waxed till they were slippery, but without carpets. Our own sleeping-room had a deep fireplace, in which we ordered a fire, and asked if there were not some saloon already warmed, where we could get a cup of tea.
Hereupon the waiter led us back along the endless corridor, and down the old stone staircases, and out into the quadrangle, and journeyed with us along an exterior arcade, and finally threw open the door of the salle a manger, which proved to be a room of lofty height, with a vaulted roof, a stone floor, and interior spaciousness sufficient for a baronial hall, the whole bearing the same aspect of times gone by, that characterized the rest of the house. There were two or three tables covered with white cloth, and we sat down at one of them and had our tea. Finally we wended back to our sleeping-rooms,--a considerable journey, so endless seemed the ancient hotel. I should like to know its history.
The fire made our great chamber look comfortable, and the fireplace threw out the heat better than the little square hole over which we cowered in our saloon at the Hotel de Louvre. . . . .
In the morning we began our preparations for starting at
ten. Issuing into the corridor, I found
a soldier of the line, pacing to and fro there as sentinel. Another was posted in another corridor, into
which I wandered by mistake; another stood in the inner court-yard, and another
at the porte-cochere. They were not
there the night before, and I know not whence nor why they came, unless that
some officer of rank may have taken up his quarters at the hotel. Miss M------ says she heard at
Before breakfast I went out to catch a momentary glimpse of
the city. The street in which our hotel stands is near a large public square;
in the centre is a bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV.; and the square
itself is called the Place de Louis le Grand.
I wonder where this statue hid itself while the Revolution was raging in
The square was surrounded by stately buildings, but had what seemed to be barracks for soldiers,--at any rate, mean little huts, deforming its ample space; and a soldier was on guard before the statue of Louis le Grand. It was a cold, misty morning, and a fog lay throughout the area, so that I could scarcely see from one side of it to the other.
Returning towards our hotel, I saw that it had an immense front, along which ran, in gigantic letters, its title,--
HOTEL DE PROVENCE ET DES AMBASSADEURS.
The excellence of the hotel lay rather in the faded pomp of its sleeping-rooms, and the vastness of its salle a manger, than in anything very good to eat or drink.
We left it, after a poor breakfast, and went to the railway
station. Looking at the mountainous heap of our luggage the night before, we
had missed a great carpet-bag; and we now found that Miss M------'s trunk had
been substituted for it, and, there being the proper number of packages as
registered, it was impossible to convince the officials that anything was
wrong. We, of course, began to
generalize forthwith, and pronounce the incident to be characteristic of French
morality. They love a certain system and
external correctness, but do not trouble themselves to be deeply in the right;
and Miss M------ suggested that there used to be parallel cases in the French
Revolution, when, so long as the assigned number were sent out of prison to be
guillotined, the jailer did not much care whether they were the persons
designated by the tribunal or not. At
all events, we could get no satisfaction about the carpet-bag, and shall very
probably be compelled to leave
This day's ride was through a far more picturesque country
than that we saw yesterday. Heights
began to rise imminent above our way, with sometimes a ruined castle wall upon
them; on our left, the rail-track kept close to the hills; on the other side
there was the level bottom of a valley, with heights descending upon it a mile
or a few miles away. Farther off we could see blue hills, shouldering high
above the intermediate ones, and themselves worthy to be called mountains. These hills arranged themselves in beautiful
groups, affording openings between them, and vistas of what lay beyond, and
gorges which I suppose held a great deal of romantic scenery. By and by a river made its appearance,
flowing swiftly in the same direction that we were travelling,--a beautiful and
cleanly river, with white pebbly shores, and itself of a peculiar blue. It rushed along very fast, sometimes
whitening over shallow descents, and even in its calmer intervals its surface
was all covered with whirls and eddies, indicating that it dashed onward in
haste. I do not now know the name of
this river, but have set it down as the "arrowy
Still going southward, the vineyards began to border our track, together with what I at first took to be orchards, but soon found were plantations of olive-trees, which grow to a much larger size than I supposed, and look almost exactly like very crabbed and eccentric apple-trees. Neither they nor the vineyards add anything to the picturesqueness of the landscape.
On the whole, I should have been delighted with all this
scenery if it had not looked so bleak, barren, brown, and bare; so like the
We travelled far into the night, swallowed a cold and hasty
To go back a little, as the sun went down, we looked out of the window of our railway carriage, and saw a sky that reminded us of what we used to see day after day in America, and what we have not seen since; and, after sunset, the horizon burned and glowed with rich crimson and orange lustre, looking at once warm and cold. After it grew dark, the stars brightened, and Miss M------ from her window pointed out some of the planets to the children, she being as familiar with them as a gardener with his flowers. They were as bright as diamonds.
We had a wretched breakfast, and J----- and I then went to
the railway station to see about our luggage.
On our walk back we went astray, passing by a triumphal arch, erected by
the Marseillais, in honor of Louis Napoleon; but we inquired our way of old
women and soldiers, who were very kind and courteous,--especially the
latter,--and were directed aright. We
came to a large, oblong, public place, set with trees, but devoid of grass,
like all public places in
Returning to the hotel, we found the rest of the party ready to go out; so we all issued forth in a body, and inquired our way to the telegraph-office, in order to send my message about the carpet-bag. In a street through which we had to pass (and which seemed to be the Exchange, or its precincts), there was a crowd even denser, yes, much denser, than that which we saw in the square of the archbishop's statue; and each man was talking to his neighbor in a vivid, animated way, as if business were very brisk to-day.
At the telegraph-office, we discovered the cause that had
brought out these many people. There had
been attempts on the Emperor's life,--unsuccessful, as they seem fated to be,
though some mischief was done to those near him. I rather think the good people of Marseilles
were glad of the attempt, as an item of news and gossip, and did not very
greatly care whether it were successful or no.
It seemed to have roused their vivacity rather than their interest. The only account I have seen of it was in the
brief public despatch from the Syndic (or whatever he be) of
J----- and I now wandered by ourselves along a circular line
of quays, having, on one side of us, a thick forest of masts, while, on the
other, was a sweep of shops, bookstalls, sailors' restaurants and
drinking-houses, fruit-sellers, candy-women, and all manner of open-air dealers
and pedlers; little children playing, and jumping the rope, and such a babble
and bustle as I never saw or heard before; the sun lying along the whole sweep,
very hot, and evidently very grateful to those who basked in it. Whenever I passed into the shade, immediately
from too warm I became too cold. The
sunshine was like hot air; the shade, like the touch of cold steel,--sharp,
hard, yet exhilarating. From the broad
street of the quays, narrow, thread-like lanes pierced up between the edifices,
calling themselves streets, yet so narrow, that a person in the middle could
almost touch the houses on either hand.
They ascended steeply, bordered on each side by long, contiguous walls
of high houses, and from the time of their first being built, could never have
had a gleam of sunshine in them,--always in shadow, always unutterably nasty,
and often pestiferous. The nastiness
which I saw in
Passing by all this sweep of quays, J----- and I ascended to
an elevated walk, overlooking the harbor, and far beyond it; for here we had
our first view of the
Steamer Calabrese, January 17th.--If I had remained at
Marseilles, I might have found many peculiarities and characteristics of that
Southern city to notice; but I fear that these will not be recorded if I leave
them till I touch the soil of Italy.
Indeed, I doubt whether there be anything really worth recording in the
little distinctions between one nation and another; at any rate, after the
first novelty is over, new things seem equally commonplace with the old. There is but one little interval when the
mind is in such a state that it can catch the fleeting aroma of a new
scene. And it is always so much
pleasanter to enjoy this delicious newness than to attempt arresting it, that
it requires great force of will to insist with one's self upon sitting down to
write. I can do nothing with
(Later.)--I walked out with J-----
yesterday morning, and reached the outskirts of the city, whence we could see
the bold and picturesque heights that surround
There are a great number of public places in
I have been struck with the idle curiosity, and, at the same time, the courtesy and kindness of the populace of Marseilles, and I meant to exemplify it by recording how Miss S------ and I attracted their notice, and became the centre of a crowd of at least fifty of them while doing no more remarkable thing than settling with a cab-driver. But really this pitch and swell is getting too bad, and I shall go to bed, as the best chance of keeping myself in an equable state.
37 Palazzo Larazani, Via Porta Pinciana, January
I went to bed immediately after my last record, and was
rocked to sleep pleasantly enough by the billows of the Mediterranean; and,
coming on deck about sunrise next morning, found the steamer approaching
In the first place, he took us through narrow streets to an
old church, the name of which I have forgotten, and, indeed, its peculiar
features; but I know that I found it pre-eminently magnificent,--its whole
interior being incased in polished marble, of various kinds and colors, its
ceiling painted, and its chapels adorned with pictures. However, this church was dazzled out of sight
by the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, to which we were afterwards conducted, whose
exterior front is covered with alternate slabs of black and white marble, which
were brought, either in whole or in part, from
In the cathedral, and in all the churches, we saw priests and many persons kneeling at their devotions; and our Salvator Rosa, whenever we passed a chapel or shrine, failed not to touch the pavement with one knee, crossing himself the while; and once, when a priest was going through some form of devotion, he stopped a few moments to share in it.
He conducted us, too, to the
All this while, whenever we emerged into the vaultlike
streets, we were wretchedly cold. The
commissionaire took us to a sort of pleasure-garden, occupying the ascent of a
hill, and presenting seven different views of the city, from as many
stations. One of the objects pointed out
to us was a large yellow house, on a hillside, in the outskirts of
Gladly (so far as I myself was concerned) we dismissed the commissionaire, after he had brought us to the hotel of the Cross of Malta, where we dined; needlessly, as it proved, for another dinner awaited us, after our return on board the boat.
We set sail for
We went into a Jewish synagogue,--the interior cased in marbles, and surrounded with galleries, resting upon arches above arches. There were lights burning at the altar, and it looked very like a Christian church; but it was dirty, and had an odor not of sanctity.
We found several new passengers on board, and among others a monk, in a long brown frock of woollen cloth, with an immense cape, and a little black covering over his tonsure. He was a tall figure, with a gray beard, and might have walked, just as he stood, out of a picture by one of the old masters. This holy person addressed me very affably in Italian; but we found it impossible to hold much conversation.
The evening was beautiful, with a bright young moonlight, not yet sufficiently powerful to overwhelm the stars, and as we walked the deck, Miss M------ showed the children the constellations, and told their names. J----- made a slight mistake as to one of them, pointing it out to me as "O'Brien's belt!"
And this is sunny
Palazzo Larazani, Via Porta Pinciana, February
3d.--We have been in
It would be idle for me to attempt any sketches of these famous sites and edifices,--St. Peter's, for example,--which have been described by a thousand people, though none of them have ever given me an idea of what sort of place Rome is. . . . .
The Coliseum was very much what I had preconceived it,
though I was not prepared to find it turned into a sort of Christian church,
with a pulpit on the verge of the open space. . . . . The French soldiers, who
keep guard within it, as in other public places in
February 7th.--I cannot get fairly into the current of my
journal since we arrived, and already I perceive that the nice peculiarities of
Roman life are passing from my notice before I have recorded them. It is a very great pity. During the past week I have plodded daily,
for an hour or two, through the narrow, stony streets, that look worse than the
worst backside lanes of any other city; indescribably ugly and disagreeable
they are, . . . . without sidewalks, but provided with
a line of larger square stones, set crosswise to each other, along which there
is somewhat less uneasy walking. . . . . Ever and anon, even in the meanest
streets, --though, generally speaking, one can hardly be called meaner than
another,--we pass a palace, extending far along the narrow way on a line with
the other houses, but distinguished by its architectural windows, iron-barred
on the basement story, and by its portal arch, through which we have glimpses,
sometimes of a dirty court-yard, or perhaps of a clean, ornamented one, with
trees, a colonnade, a fountain, and a statue in the vista; though, more likely,
it resembles the entrance to a stable, and may, perhaps, really be one. The lower regions of palaces come to strange
There are a great many of these fountain-shapes, constructed
under the orders of one pope or another, in all parts of the city; and only the
very simplest, such as a jet springing from a broad marble or porphyry vase,
and falling back into it again, are really ornamental. If an antiquary were to accompany me through
the streets, no doubt he would point out ten thousand interesting objects that
I now pass over unnoticed, so general is the surface of plaster and whitewash;
but often I can see fragments of antiquity built into the walls, or perhaps a
church that was a Roman temple, or a basement of ponderous stones that were
laid above twenty centuries ago. It is
strange how our ideas of what antiquity is become altered here in Rome; the
sixteenth century, in which many of the churches and fountains seem to have
been built or re-edified, seems close at hand, even like our own days; a
thousand years, or the days of the latter empire, is but a modern date, and
scarcely interests us; and nothing is really venerable of a more recent epoch
than the reign of Constantine. And the
Egyptian obelisks that stand in several of the piazzas put even the Augustan or
Republican antiquities to shame. I
remember reading in a
Whatever beauty there may be in a Roman ruin is the remnant
of what was beautiful originally; whereas an English ruin is more beautiful
often in its decay than even it was in its primal strength. If we ever build such noble structures as
these Roman ones, we can have just as good ruins, after two thousand years, in
I have not yet fairly begun the sight-seeing of
On coming out of St. Peter's at my last visit, I saw a great
sheet of ice around the fountain on the right hand, and some little Romans
awkwardly sliding on it. I, too, took a
slide, just for the sake of doing what I never thought to do in
We went yesterday to the Pantheon. . . . .
When I first came to
February 9th.--For three or four days it has been cloudy and
rainy, which is the greater pity, as this should be the gayest and merriest
part of the Carnival. I go out but
little,--yesterday only as far as Pakenham's and Hooker's bank in the Piazza
de' Spagna, where I read Galignani and the American papers. At last, after seeing in
To-day I walked out along the Pincian Hill. . . . . As the clouds still threatened rain, I deemed it my safest course to go to St. Peter's for refuge. Heavy and dull as the day was, the effect of this great world of a church was still brilliant in the interior, as if it had a sunshine of its own, as well as its own temperature; and, by and by, the sunshine of the outward world came through the windows, hundreds of feet aloft, and fell upon the beautiful inlaid pavement. . . . . Against a pillar, on one side of the nave, is a mosaic copy of Raphael's Transfiguration, fitly framed within a great arch of gorgeous marble; and, no doubt, the indestructible mosaic has preserved it far more completely than the fading and darkening tints in which the artist painted it. At any rate, it seemed to me the one glorious picture that I have ever seen. The pillar nearest the great entrance, on the left of the nave, supports the monument to the Stuart family, where two winged figures, with inverted torches, stand on either side of a marble door, which is closed forever. It is an impressive monument, for you feel as if the last of the race had passed through that door.
Emerging from the church, I saw a French sergeant drilling
his men in the piazza. These French
soldiers are prominent objects everywhere about the city, and make up more of
its sight and sound than anything else that lives. They stroll about individually; they pace as
sentinels in all the public places; and they march up and down in squads,
companies, and battalions, always with a very great din of drum, fife, and
trumpet; ten times the proportion of music that the same number of men would
require elsewhere; and it reverberates with ten times the noise, between the
high edifices of these lanes, that it could make in broader streets.
Nevertheless, I have no quarrel with the French soldiers; they are fresh,
healthy, smart, honest-looking young fellows enough, in blue coats and red
trousers; . . . . and, at all events, they serve as an
efficient police, making
On my way home I saw a few tokens of the Carnival, which is now in full progress; though, as it was only about one o'clock, its frolics had not commenced for the day. . . . . I question whether the Romans themselves take any great interest in the Carnival. The balconies along the Corso were almost entirely taken by English and Americans, or other foreigners.
As I approached the bridge of St. Angelo, I saw several
persons engaged, as I thought, in fishing in the Tiber, with very strong lines;
but on drawing nearer I found that they were trying to hook up the branches,
and twigs, and other drift-wood, which the recent rains might have swept into
the river. There was a little heap of
what looked chiefly like willow twigs, the poor result of their labor. The hook was a knot of wood, with the
lopped-off branches projecting in three or four prongs. The
February 10th.--I went out to-day, and, going along the Via Felice and the Via delle Quattro Fontane, came unawares to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. I entered it, without in the least knowing what church it was, and found myself in a broad and noble nave, both very simple and very grand. There was a long row of Ionic columns of marble, twenty or thereabouts on each side, supporting a flat roof. There were vaulted side aisles, and, at the farther end, a bronze canopy over the high altar; and all along the length of the side aisles were shrines with pictures, sculpture, and burning lamps; the whole church, too, was lined with marble: the roof was gilded; and yet the general effect of severe and noble simplicity triumphed over all the ornament. I should have taken it for a Roman temple, retaining nearly its pristine aspect; but Murray tells us that it was founded A. D. 342 by Pope Liberius, on the spot precisely marked out by a miraculous fall of snow, in the month of August, and it has undergone many alterations since his time. But it is very fine, and gives the beholder the idea of vastness, which seems harder to attain than anything else. On the right hand, approaching the high altar, there is a chapel, separated from the rest of the church by an iron paling; and, being admitted into it with another party, I found it most elaborately magnificent. But one magnificence outshone another, and made itself the brightest conceivable for the moment. However, this chapel was as rich as the most precious marble could make it, in pillars and pilasters, and broad, polished slabs, covering the whole walls (except where there were splendid and glowing frescos; or where some monumental statuary or bas-relief, or mosaic picture filled up an arched niche). Its architecture was a dome, resting on four great arches; and in size it would alone have been a church. In the centre of the mosaic pavement there was a flight of steps, down which we went, and saw a group in marble, representing the nativity of Christ, which, judging by the unction with which our guide talked about it, must have been of peculiar sanctity. I hate to leave this chapel and church, without being able to say any one thing that may reflect a portion of their beauty, or of the feeling which they excite. Kneeling against many of the pillars there were persons in prayer, and I stepped softly, fearing lest my tread on the marble pavement should disturb them,--a needless precaution, however, for nobody seems to expect it, nor to be disturbed by the lack of it.
The situation of the church, I should suppose, is the
On my return, I turned aside from the Via
delle Quattro Fontane into the Via Quirinalis, and was led by it into the
Piazza di Monte Cavallo. The street
through which I passed was broader, cleanlier, and statelier than most streets
I came home by way of the Corso, which seemed a little enlivened by Carnival time; though, as it was not yet two o'clock, the fun had not begun for the day. The rain throws a dreary damper on the festivities.
February 13th.--Day before yesterday we took J----- and R----- in a carriage, and went to see the Carnival, by driving up and down the Corso. It was as ugly a day, as respects weather, as has befallen us since we came to Rome,--cloudy, with an indecisive wet, which finally settled into a rain; and people say that such is generally the weather in Carnival time. There is very little to be said about the spectacle. Sunshine would have improved it, no doubt; but a person must have very broad sunshine within himself to be joyous on such shallow provocation. The street, at all events, would have looked rather brilliant under a sunny sky, the balconies being hung with bright-colored draperies, which were also flung out of some of the windows. . . . . Soon I had my first experience of the Carnival in a handful of confetti, right slap in my face. . . . . Many of the ladies wore loose white dominos, and some of the gentlemen had on defensive armor of blouses; and wire masks over the face were a protection for both sexes,--not a needless one, for I received a shot in my right eye which cost me many tears. It seems to be a point of courtesy (though often disregarded by Americans and English) not to fling confetti at ladies, or at non-combatants, or quiet bystanders; and the engagements with these missiles were generally between open carriages, manned with youths, who were provided with confetti for such encounters, and with bouquets for the ladies. We had one real enemy on the Corso; for our former friend Mrs. T------ was there, and as often as we passed and repassed her, she favored us with a handful of lime. Two or three times somebody ran by the carriage and puffed forth a shower of winged seeds through a tube into our faces and over our clothes; and, in the course of the afternoon, we were hit with perhaps half a dozen sugar-plums. Possibly we may not have received our fair share of these last salutes, for J----- had on a black mask, which made him look like an imp of Satan, and drew many volleys of confetti that we might otherwise have escaped. A good many bouquets were flung at our little R-----, and at us generally. . . . . This was what is called masking-day, when it is the rule to wear masks in the Corso, but the great majority of people appeared without them. . . . . Two fantastic figures, with enormous heads, set round with frizzly hair, came and grinned into our carriage, and J----- tore out a handful of hair (which proved to be sea-weed) from one of their heads, rather to the discomposure of the owner, who muttered his indignation in Italian. . . . . On comparing notes with J----- and R-----, indeed with U---- too, I find that they all enjoyed the Carnival much more than I did. Only the young ought to write descriptions of such scenes. My cold criticism chills the life out of it.
February 14th.--Friday, 12th, was a sunny day, the first
that we had had for some time; and my wife and I went forth to see sights as
well as to make some calls that had long been due. We went first to the
We called at the
On the staircase ascending to their piano we saw the ancient Greek bas-relief of a lion, whence Canova is supposed to have taken the idea of his lions on the monument in St. Peter's. Afterwards we made two or three calls in the neighborhood of the Piazza de' Spagna, finding only Mr. Hamilton Fish and family, at the Hotel d'Europe, at home, and next visited the studio of Mr. C. G. Thompson, whom I knew in Boston. He has very greatly improved since those days, and, being always a man of delicate mind, and earnestly desiring excellence for its own sake, he has won himself the power of doing beautiful and elevated works. He is now meditating a series of pictures from Shakespeare's "Tempest," the sketches of one or two of which he showed us, likewise a copy of a small Madonna, by Raphael, wrought with a minute faithfulness which it makes one a better man to observe. . . . . Mr. Thompson is a true artist, and whatever his pictures have of beauty comes from very far beneath the surface; and this, I suppose, is one weighty reason why he has but moderate success. I should like his pictures for the mere color, even if they represented nothing. His studio is in the Via Sistina; and at a little distance on the other side of the same street is William Story's, where we likewise went, and found him at work on a sitting statue of Cleopatra.
William Story looks quite as vivid, in a graver way, as when I saw him last, a very young man. His perplexing variety of talents and accomplishments--he being a poet, a prose writer, a lawyer, a painter, a musician, and a sculptor--seems now to be concentrating itself into this latter vocation, and I cannot see why he should not achieve something very good. He has a beautiful statue, already finished, of Goethe's Margaret, pulling a flower to pieces to discover whether Faust loves her; a very type of virginity and simplicity. The statue of Cleopatra, now only fourteen days advanced in the clay, is as wide a step from the little maidenly Margaret as any artist could take; it is a grand subject, and he is conceiving it with depth and power, and working it out with adequate skill. He certainly is sensible of something deeper in his art than merely to make beautiful nudities and baptize them by classic names. By the by, he told me several queer stories of American visitors to his studio: one of them, after long inspecting Cleopatra, into which he has put all possible characteristics of her time and nation and of her own individuality, asked, "Have you baptized your statue yet?" as if the sculptor were waiting till his statue were finished before he chose the subject of it,--as, indeed, I should think many sculptors do. Another remarked of a statue of Hero, who is seeking Leander by torchlight, and in momentary expectation of finding his drowned body, "Is not the face a little sad?" Another time a whole party of Americans filed into his studio, and ranged themselves round his father's statue, and, after much silent examination, the spokesman of the party inquired, "Well, sir, what is this intended to represent?" William Story, in telling these little anecdotes, gave the Yankee twang to perfection. . . . .
The statue of his father, his first work, is very noble, as noble and fine a portrait-statue as I ever saw. In the outer room of his studio a stone-cutter, or whatever this kind of artisan is called, was at work, transferring the statue of Hero from the plaster-cast into marble; and already, though still in some respects a block of stone, there was a wonderful degree of expression in the face. It is not quite pleasant to think that the sculptor does not really do the whole labor on his statues, but that they are all but finished to his hand by merely mechanical people. It is generally only the finishing touches that are given by his own chisel.
Yesterday, being another bright day, we went to the basilica
of St. John Lateran, which is the basilica next in rank to St. Peter's, and has
the precedence of it as regards certain sacred privileges. It stands on a most noble site, on the
outskirts of the city, commanding a view of the Sabine and Alban hills, blue in
the distance, and some of them hoary with sunny snow. The ruins of the Claudian aqueduct are close
at hand. The church is connected with
the Lateran palace and museum, so that the whole is one edifice; but the facade
of the church distinguishes it, and is very lofty and grand,--more so, it seems
to me, than that of St. Peter's. Under the portico is an old statue of
There are several other sacred relics preserved in the church; for instance, the staircase of Pilate's house up which Jesus went, and the porphyry slab on which the soldiers cast lots for his garments. These, however, we did not see. There are very glowing frescos on portions of the walls; but, there being much whitewash instead of incrusted marble, it has not the pleasant aspect which one's eye learns to demand in Roman churches. There is a good deal of statuary along the columns of the nave, and in the monuments of the side aisles.
In reference to the interior splendor of Roman churches, I must say that I think it a pity that painted windows are exclusively a Gothic ornament; for the elaborate ornamentation of these interiors puts the ordinary daylight out of countenance, so that a window with only the white sunshine coming through it, or even with a glimpse of the blue Italian sky, looks like a portion left unfinished, and therefore a blotch in the rich wall. It is like the one spot in Aladdin's palace which he left for the king, his father-in-law, to finish, after his fairy architects had exhausted their magnificence on the rest; and the sun, like the king, fails in the effort. It has what is called a porta santa, which we saw walled up, in front of the church, one side of the main entrance. I know not what gives it its sanctity, but it appears to be opened by the pope on a year of jubilee, once every quarter of a century.
After our return . . . . . I took R----- along the Pincian Hill, and finally, after witnessing what of the Carnival could be seen in the Piazza del Popolo from that safe height, we went down into the Corso, and some little distance along it. Except for the sunshine, the scene was much the same as I have already described; perhaps fewer confetti and more bouquets. Some Americans and English are said to have been brought before the police authorities, and fined for throwing lime. It is remarkable that the jollity, such as it is, of the Carnival, does not extend an inch beyond the line of the Corso; there it flows along in a narrow stream, while in the nearest street we see nothing but the ordinary Roman gravity.
February 15th.--Yesterday was a bright day, but I did not go out till the afternoon, when I took an hour's walk along the Pincian, stopping a good while to look at the old beggar who, for many years past, has occupied one of the platforms of the flight of steps leading from the Piazza de' Spagna to the Triniti de' Monti. Hillard commemorates him in his book. He is an unlovely object, moving about on his hands and knees, principally by aid of his hands, which are fortified with a sort of wooden shoes; while his poor, wasted lower shanks stick up in the air behind him, loosely vibrating as he progresses. He is gray, old, ragged, a pitiable sight, but seems very active in his own fashion, and bestirs himself on the approach of his visitors with the alacrity of a spider when a fly touches the remote circumference of his web. While I looked down at him he received alms from three persons, one of whom was a young woman of the lower orders; the other two were gentlemen, probably either English or American. I could not quite make out the principle on which he let some people pass without molestation, while he shuffled from one end of the platform to the other to intercept an occasional individual. He is not persistent in his demands, nor, indeed, is this a usual fault among Italian beggars. A shake of the head will stop him when wriggling towards you from a distance. I fancy he reaps a pretty fair harvest, and no doubt leads as contented and as interesting a life as most people, sitting there all day on those sunny steps, looking at the world, and making his profit out of it. It must be pretty much such an occupation as fishing, in its effect upon the hopes and apprehensions; and probably he suffers no more from the many refusals he meets with than the angler does, when he sees a fish smell at his bait and swim away. One success pays for a hundred disappointments, and the game is all the better for not being entirely in his own favor.
Walking onward, I found the Pincian thronged with promenaders, as also with carriages, which drove round the verge of the gardens in an unbroken ring.
To-day has been very rainy. I went out in the forenoon, and took a sitting for my bust in one of a suite of rooms formerly occupied by Canova. It was large, high, and dreary from the want of a carpet, furniture, or anything but clay and plaster. A sculptor's studio has not the picturesque charm of that of a painter, where there is color, warmth, and cheerfulness, and where the artist continually turns towards you the glow of some picture, which is resting against the wall. . . . . I was asked not to look at the bust at the close of the sitting, and, of course, I obeyed; though I have a vague idea of a heavy-browed physiognomy, something like what I have seen in the glass, but looking strangely in that guise of clay. . . . .
It is a singular fascination that
The Carnival still continues, though I hardly see how it can have withstood such a damper as this rainy day. There were several people--three, I think--killed in the Corso on Saturday; some accounts say that they were run over by the horses in the race; others, that they were ridden down by the dragoons in clearing the course.
After leaving Canova's studio, I stepped into the
February 17th.--Yesterday morning was perfectly sunny, and we went out betimes to see churches; going first to the Capuchins', close by the Piazza Barberini.
["The Marble Faun" takes up this description of the church and of the dead monk, which we really saw, just as recounted, even to the sudden stream of blood which flowed from the nostrils, as we looked at him.--ED.]
We next went to the Trinita de' Monti, which stands at the head of the steps, leading, in several flights, from the Piazza de' Spagna. It is now connected with a convent of French nuns, and when we rang at a side door, one of the sisterhood answered the summons, and admitted us into the church. This, like that of the Capuchins', had a vaulted roof over the nave, and no side aisles, but rows of chapels instead. Unlike the Capuchins', which was filthy, and really disgraceful to behold, this church was most exquisitely neat, as women alone would have thought it worth while to keep it. It is not a very splendid church, not rich in gorgeous marbles, but pleasant to be in, if it were only for the sake of its godly purity. There was only one person in the nave; a young girl, who sat perfectly still, with her face towards the altar, as long as we stayed. Between the nave and the rest of the church there is a high iron railing, and on the other side of it were two kneeling figures in black, so motionless that I at first thought them statues; but they proved to be two nuns at their devotions; and others of the sisterhood came by and by and joined them. Nuns, at least these nuns, who are French, and probably ladies of refinement, having the education of young girls in charge, are far pleasanter objects to see and think about than monks; the odor of sanctity, in the latter, not being an agreeable fragrance. But these holy sisters, with their black crape and white muslin, looked really pure and unspotted from the world.
On the iron railing above mentioned was the representation of a golden heart, pierced with arrows; for these are nuns of the Sacred Heart. In the various chapels there are several paintings in fresco, some by Daniele da Volterra; and one of them, the "Descent from the Cross," has been pronounced the third greatest picture in the world. I never should have had the slightest suspicion that it was a great picture at all, so worn and faded it looks, and so hard, so difficult to be seen, and so undelightful when one does see it.
From the Trinita we went to the Santa Maria del Popolo, a church built on a spot where Nero is said to have been buried, and which was afterwards made horrible by devilish phantoms. It now being past twelve, and all the churches closing from twelve till two, we had not time to pay much attention to the frescos, oil-pictures, and statues, by Raphael and other famous men, which are to be seen here. I remember dimly the magnificent chapel of the Chigi family, and little else, for we stayed but a short time; and went next to the sculptor's studio, where I had another sitting for my bust. After I had been moulded for about an hour, we turned homeward; but my wife concluded to hire a balcony for this last afternoon and evening of the Carnival, and she took possession of it, while I went home to send to her Miss S------ and the two elder children. For my part, I took R-----, and walked, by way of the Pincian, to the Piazza del Popolo, and thence along the Corso, where, by this time, the warfare of bouquets and confetti raged pretty fiercely. The sky being blue and the sun bright, the scene looked much gayer and brisker than I had before found it; and I can conceive of its being rather agreeable than otherwise, up to the age of twenty. We got several volleys of confetti. R----- received a bouquet and a sugar-plum, and I a resounding hit from something that looked more like a cabbage than a flower. Little as I have enjoyed the Carnival, I think I could make quite a brilliant sketch of it, without very widely departing from truth.
February 19th.--Day before yesterday, pretty early, we went
to St. Peter's, expecting to see the pope cast ashes on the heads of the
cardinals, it being Ash-Wednesday. On
arriving, however, we found no more than the usual number of visitants and
devotional people scattered through the broad interior of St. Peter's; and
thence concluded that the ceremonies were to be performed in the Sistine
Chapel. Accordingly, we went out of the
cathedral, through the door in the left transept, and passed round the
exterior, and through the vast courts of the
The attendant, meanwhile, had informed us that my wife could
not be admitted to the chapel in her bonnet, and that I myself could not enter
at all, for lack of a dress-coat; so my wife took off her bonnet, and, covering
her head with her black lace veil, was readily let in, while I remained in the
Sala Regia, with several other gentlemen, who found themselves in the same
predicament as I was. There was a
wonderful variety of costume to be seen and studied among the persons around
me, comprising garbs that have been elsewhere laid aside for at least three centuries,--the
broad, plaited, double ruff, and black velvet cloak, doublet, trunk-breeches,
and sword of Queen Elizabeth's time,--the papal guard, in their striped and
party-colored dress as before described, looking not a little like harlequins;
other soldiers in helmets and jackboots; French officers of various uniform;
monks and priests; attendants in old-fashioned and gorgeous livery; gentlemen,
some in black dress-coats and pantaloons, others in wide-awake hats and tweed
overcoats; and a few ladies in the prescribed costume of black; so that, in any
other country, the scene might have been taken for a fancy ball. By and by, the
cardinals began to arrive, and added their splendid purple robes and red hats
to make the picture still more brilliant.
They were old men, one or two very aged and infirm, and generally men of
bulk and substance, with heavy faces, fleshy about the chin. Their red hats, trimmed with gold-lace, are a
beautiful piece of finery, and are identical in shape with the black, loosely
cocked beavers worn by the Catholic ecclesiastics generally. Wolsey's hat, which I saw
at the Manchester Exhibition, might have been made on the same block, but
apparently was never cocked, as the fashion now is. The attendants changed the upper portions of
their master's attire, and put a little cap of scarlet cloth on each of their
heads, after which the cardinals, one by one, or two by two, as they happened
to arrive, went into the chapel, with a page behind each holding up his purple
train. In the mean while, within the
chapel, we heard singing and chanting; and whenever the voluminous curtains
that hung before the entrance were slightly drawn apart, we outsiders glanced
through, but could see only a mass of people, and beyond them still another
chapel, divided from the hither one by a screen. When almost everybody had gone in, there was
a stir among the guards and attendants, and a door opened, apparently
communicating with the inner apartments of the
There was nothing else to be seen; so I went back through
the antechambers (which are noble halls, richly frescoed on the walls and
ceilings), endeavoring to get out through the same passages that had let me
in. I had already tried to descend what
I now supposed to be the Scala Santa, but had been turned back by a
sentinel. After wandering to and fro a
good while, I at last found myself in a long, long gallery, on each side of which
were innumerable inscriptions, in Greek and Latin, on slabs of marble, built
into the walls; and classic altars and tablets were ranged along, from end to
end. At the extremity was a closed iron
grating, from which I was retreating; but a French gentleman accosted me, with
the information that the custode would admit me, if I chose, and would
accompany me through the sculpture department of the
Most of the world-famous sculptures presented themselves to my eye with a kind of familiarity, through the copies and casts which I had seen; but I found the originals more different than I anticipated. The Apollo, for instance, has a face which I have never seen in any cast or copy. I must confess, however, taking such transient glimpses as I did, I was more impressed with the extent of the Vatican, and the beautiful order in which it is kept, and its great sunny, open courts, with fountains, grass, and shrubs, and the views of Rome and the Campagna from its windows,--more impressed with these, and with certain vastly capacious vases, and two seat sarcophagi,--than with the statuary. Thus I went round the whole, and was dismissed through the grated barrier into the gallery of inscriptions again; and after a little more wandering, I made my way out of the palace. . . . .
Yesterday I went out betimes, and strayed through some
portion of ancient
After a while the visitant finds himself getting accustomed to this horrible state of things; and the associations of moral sublimity and beauty seem to throw a veil over the physical meannesses to which I allude. Perhaps there is something in the mind of the people of these countries that enables them quite to dissever small ugliness from great sublimity and beauty. They spit upon the glorious pavement of St. Peter's, and wherever else they like; they place paltry-looking wooden confessionals beneath its sublime arches, and ornament them with cheap little colored prints of the crucifixion; they hang tin hearts and other tinsel and trumpery at the gorgeous shrines of the saints, in chapels that are incrusted with gems, or marbles almost as precious; they put pasteboard statues of saints beneath the dome of the Pantheon; in short, they let the sublime and the ridiculous come close together, and are not in the least troubled by the proximity. It must be that their sense of the beautiful is stronger than in the Anglo-Saxon mind, and that it observes only what is fit to gratify it.
To-day, which was bright and cool, my wife and I set forth
immediately after breakfast, in search of the Baths of Diocletian, and the
We turned into the Piazza de' Termini, the entrance of which
is at this fountain; and after some inquiry of the French soldiers, a numerous
detachment of whom appear to be quartered in the vicinity, we found our way to
the portal of Santa Maria degl' Angeli.
The exterior of this church has no pretensions to beauty or majesty, or,
indeed, to architectural merit of any kind, or to any architecture whatever;
for it looks like a confused pile of ruined brickwork, with a facade resembling
half the inner curve of a large oven. No
one would imagine that there was a church under that enormous heap of ancient
rubbish. But the door admits you into a
circular vestibule, once an apartment of Diocletian's Baths, but now a portion
of the nave of the church, and surrounded with monumental busts; and thence you
pass into what was the central hall; now, with little change, except of detail
and ornament, transformed into the body of the church. This space is so lofty, broad, and airy, that
the soul forthwith swells out and magnifies itself, for the sake of filling it. It was Michael Angelo who contrived this
miracle; and I feel even more grateful to him for rescuing such a noble
interior from destruction, than if he had originally built it himself. In the ceiling above, you see the metal
fixtures whereon the old Romans hung their lamps; and there are eight gigantic
pillars of Egyptian granite, standing as they stood of yore. There is a grand simplicity about the church,
more satisfactory than elaborate ornament; but the present pope has paved and
adorned one of the large chapels of the transept in very beautiful style, and
the pavement of the central part is likewise laid in rich marbles. In the choir there are several pictures, one
of which was veiled, as celebrated pictures frequently are in churches. A person, who seemed to be at his devotions,
withdrew the veil for us, and we saw a Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, by
Domenichino, originally, I believe, painted in fresco in St. Peter's, but since
transferred to canvas, and removed hither.
Its place at St. Peter's is supplied by a mosaic copy. I was a good deal
impressed by this picture,--the dying saint, amid the sorrow of those who loved
him, and the fury of his enemies, looking upward, where a company of angels,
and Jesus with them, are waiting to welcome him and crown him; and I felt what
an influence pictures might have upon the devotional part of our nature. The nailmarks in the hands and feet of Jesus,
ineffaceable, even after he had passed into bliss and glory, touched my heart
with a sense of his love for us. I think
this really a great picture. We walked
round the church, looking at other paintings and frescos, but saw no others
that greatly interested us. In the
vestibule there are monuments to Carlo Maratti and Salvator Rosa, and there is
a statue of St. Bruno, by Houdon, which is pronounced to be very fine. I thought it good, but scarcely worthy of
vast admiration. Houdon was the sculptor
of the first statue of
After emerging from the church, I looked back with wonder at the stack of shapeless old brickwork that hid the splendid interior. I must go there again, and breathe freely in that noble space.
February 20th.--This morning, after breakfast, I walked across the city, making a pretty straight course to the Pantheon, and thence to the bridge of St. Angelo, and to St. Peter's. It had been my purpose to go to the Fontana Paolina; but, finding that the distance was too great, and being weighed down with a Roman lassitude, I concluded to go into St. Peter's. Here I looked at Michael Angelo's Pieta, a representation of the dead Christ, in his mother's lap. Then I strolled round the great church, and find that it continues to grow upon me both in magnitude and beauty, by comparison with the many interiors of sacred edifices which I have lately seen. At times, a single, casual, momentary glimpse of its magnificence gleams upon my soul, as it were, when I happen to glance at arch opening beyond arch, and I am surprised into admiration. I have experienced that a landscape and the sky unfold the deepest beauty in a similar way; not when they are gazed at of set purpose, but when the spectator looks suddenly through a vista, among a crowd of other thoughts. Passing near the confessional for foreigners to-day, I saw a Spaniard, who had just come out of the one devoted to his native tongue, taking leave of his confessor, with an affectionate reverence, which--as well as the benign dignity of the good father--it was good to behold. . . . .
I returned home early, in order to go with my wife to the
It is the most profoundly wrought picture in the world; no artist did it, nor could do it, again. Guido may have held the brush, but he painted "better than he knew." I wish, however, it were possible for some spectator, of deep sensibility, to see the picture without knowing anything of its subject or history; for, no doubt, we bring all our knowledge of the Cenci tragedy to the interpretation of it.
Close beside Beatrice Cenci hangs the Fornarina. . . . .
While we were looking at these works Miss M------
unexpectedly joined us, and we went, all three together, to the
At the end of the garden, which was of no great extent, was
an edifice, bordering on the piazza, called the Casino, which, I presume, means
The front is richly ornamented with bas-reliefs,
and statues in niches; as if it were a place for pleasure and enjoyment, and
therefore ought to be beautiful. As we
approached it, the door swung open, and we went into a large room on the ground-floor, and, looking up to the ceiling, beheld Guido's
In two other rooms of the Casino we saw pictures by Domenichino, Rubens, and other famous painters, which I do not mean to speak of, because I cared really little or nothing about them. Returning into the garden, the sunny warmth of which was most grateful after the chill air and cold pavement of the Casino, we walked round the laguna, examining the statues, and looking down at some little fishes that swarmed at the stone margin of the pool. There were two infants of the Rospigliosi family: one, a young child playing with a maid and head-servant; another, the very chubbiest and rosiest boy in the world, sleeping on its nurse's bosom. The nurse was a comely woman enough, dressed in bright colors, which fitly set off the deep lines of her Italian face. An old painter very likely would have beautified and refined the pair into a Madonna, with the child Jesus; for an artist need not go far in Italy to find a picture ready composed and tinted, needing little more than to be literally copied.
Miss M------ had gone away before us; but my wife and I,
after leaving the Palazzo Rospigliosi, and on our way hone, went into the
I must not forget that, on our way from the
February 21st.--This morning I took my way through the Porta del Popolo, intending to spend the forenoon in the Campagna; but, getting weary of the straight, uninteresting street that runs out of the gate, I turned aside from it, and soon found myself on the shores of the Tiber. It looked, as usual, like a saturated solution of yellow mud, and eddied hastily along between deep banks of clay, and over a clay bed, in which doubtless are hidden many a richer treasure than we now possess. The French once proposed to draw off the river, for the purpose of recovering all the sunken statues and relics; but the Romans made strenuous objection, on account of the increased virulence of malaria which would probably result. I saw a man on the immediate shore of the river, fifty feet or so beneath the bank on which I stood, sitting patiently, with an angling rod; and I waited to see what he might catch. Two other persons likewise sat down to watch him; but he caught nothing so long as I stayed, and at last seemed to give it up. The banks and vicinity of the river are very bare and uninviting, as I then saw them; no shade, no verdure,--a rough, neglected aspect, and a peculiar shabbiness about the few houses that were visible. Farther down the stream the dome of St. Peter's showed itself on the other side, seeming to stand on the outskirts of the city. I walked along the banks, with some expectation of finding a ferry, by which I might cross the river; but my course was soon interrupted by the wall, and I turned up a lane that led me straight back again to the Porta del Popolo. I stopped a moment, however, to see some young men pitching quoits, which they appeared to do with a good deal of skill.
I went along the Via di Ripetta, and through other streets, stepping into two or three churches, one of which was the Pantheon. . . . .
There are, I think, seven deep, pillared recesses around the circumference of it, each of which becomes a sufficiently capacious chapel; and alternately with these chapels there is a marble structure, like the architecture of a doorway, beneath which is the shrine of a saint; so that the whole circle of the Pantheon is filled up with the seven chapels and seven shrines. A number of persons were sitting or kneeling around; others came in while I was there, dipping their fingers in the holy water, and bending the knee, as they passed the shrines and chapels, until they reached the one which, apparently, they had selected as the particular altar for their devotions. Everybody seemed so devout, and in a frame of mind so suited to the day and place, that it really made me feel a little awkward not to be able to kneel down along with them. Unlike the worshippers in our own churches, each individual here seems to do his own individual acts of devotion, and I cannot but think it better so than to make an effort for united prayer as we do. It is my opinion that a great deal of devout and reverential feeling is kept alive in people's hearts by the Catholic mode of worship.
Soon leaving the Pantheon, a few minutes' walk towards the
Corso brought me to the
I reached home at about twelve, and, at one, set out again,
with my wife, towards St. Peter's, where we meant to stay till after
vespers. We walked across the city, and
through the Piazza de Navona, where we stopped to look at one of Bernini's
absurd fountains, of which the water makes but the smallest part,--a little
squirt or two amid a prodigious fuss of gods and monsters. Thence we passed by the poor, battered-down
torso of Pasquin, and came, by devious ways, to the bridge of St. Angelo; the
streets bearing pretty much their weekday aspect, many of the shops open, the
market-stalls doing their usual business, and the people brisk and gay, though
not indecorously so. I suppose there was
hardly a man or woman who had not heard mass, confessed, and said their
prayers; a thing which--the prayers, I mean--it would be absurd to predicate of
Arriving at St. Peter's shortly after two, we walked round the whole church, looking at all the pictures and most of the monuments, . . . . and paused longest before Guido's "Archangel Michael overcoming Lucifer." This is surely one of the most beautiful things in the world, one of the human conceptions that are imbued most deeply with the celestial. . . . .
We then sat down in one of the aisles and awaited the beginning of vespers, which we supposed would take place at half past three. Four o'clock came, however, and no vespers; and as our dinner-hour is five, . . . . we at last cane away without hearing the vesper hymn.
February 23d.--Yesterday, at noon, we set out for the
Capitol, and after going up the acclivity (not from the Forum, but from the
opposite direction), stopped to look at the statues of Castor and Pollux,
which, with other sculptures, look down the ascent. Castor and his brother seem to me to have
heads disproportionately large, and are not so striking, in any respect, as such great images ought to be. But we heartily admired the equestrian statue
of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, . . . . and looked at a fountain, principally composed, I think, of
figures representing the Nile and the
The head of Augustus is very beautiful, and appears to be that of a meditative, philosophic man, saddened with the sense that it is not very much worth while to be at the summit of human greatness after all. It is a sorrowful thing to trace the decay of civilization through this series of busts, and to observe how the artistic skill, so requisite at first, went on declining through the dreary dynasty of the Caesars, till at length the master of the world could not get his head carved in better style than the figure-head of a ship.
In the next room there were better statues than we had yet seen; but in the last room of the range we found the "Dying Gladiator," of which I had already caught a glimpse in passing by the open door. It had made all the other treasures of the gallery tedious in my eagerness to come to that. I do not believe that so much pathos is wrought into any other block of stone. Like all works of the highest excellence, however, it makes great demands upon the spectator. He must make a generous gift of his sympathies to the sculptor, and help out his skill with all his heart, or else he will see little more than a skilfully wrought surface. It suggests far more than it shows. I looked long at this statue, and little at anything else, though, among other famous works, a statue of Antinous was in the same room.
I was glad when we left the museum, which, by the by, was piercingly chill, as if the multitude of statues radiated cold out of their marble substance. We might have gone to see the pictures in the Palace of the Conservatori, and S-----, whose receptivity is unlimited and forever fresh, would willingly have done so; but I objected, and we went towards the Forum. I had noticed, two or three times, an inscription over a mean-looking door in this neighborhood, stating that here was the entrance to the prison of the holy apostles Peter and Paul; and we soon found the spot, not far from the Forum, with two wretched frescos of the apostles above the inscription. We knocked at the door without effect; but a lame beggar, who sat at another door of the same house (which looked exceedingly like a liquor-shop), desired us to follow him, and began to ascend to the Capitol, by the causeway leading from the Forum. A little way upward we met a woman, to whom the beggar delivered us over, and she led us into a church or chapel door, and pointed to a long flight of steps, which descended through twilight into utter darkness. She called to somebody in the lower regions, and then went away, leaving us to get down this mysterious staircase by ourselves. Down we went, farther and farther from the daylight, and found ourselves, anon, in a dark chamber or cell, the shape or boundaries of which we could not make out, though it seemed to be of stone, and black and dungeon-like. Indistinctly, and from a still farther depth in the earth, we heard voices,--one voice, at least,--apparently not addressing ourselves, but some other persons; and soon, directly beneath our feet, we saw a glimmering of light through a round, iron-grated hole in the bottom of the dungeon. In a few moments the glimmer and the voice came up through this hole, and the light disappeared, and it and the voice came glimmering and babbling up a flight of stone stairs, of which we had not hitherto been aware. It was the custode, with a party of visitors, to whom he had been showing St. Peter's dungeon. Each visitor was provided with a wax taper, and the custode gave one to each of us, bidding us wait a moment while he conducted the other party to the upper air. During his absence we examined the cell, as well as our dim lights would permit, and soon found an indentation in the wall, with an iron grate put over it for protection, and an inscription above informing us that the Apostle Peter had here left the imprint of his visage; and, in truth, there is a profile there,--forehead, nose, mouth, and chin,--plainly to be seen, an intaglio in the solid rock. We touched it with the tips of our fingers, as well as saw it with our eyes.
The custode soon returned, and led us down the darksome
steps, chattering in Italian all the time.
It is not a very long descent to the lower cell, the roof of which is so
low that I believe I could have reached it with my hand. We were now in the deepest and ugliest part
of the old Mamertine Prison, one of the few remains of the kingly period of
The staircase descending into the lower dungeon is comparatively modern, there having been no entrance of old, except through the small circular opening in the roof. In the upper cell the custode showed us an ancient flight of stairs, now built into the wall, which used to lead from the Capitol. The whole precincts are now consecrated, and I believe the upper portion, perhaps both upper and lower, are a shrine or a chapel.
I now left S------ in the Forum, and went to call on Mr. J.
P. K------ at the Hotel d'Europe. I
found him just returned from a drive,--a gentleman of about sixty, or more,
with gray hair, a pleasant, intellectual face, and penetrating, but not
unkindly eyes. He moved infirmly, being
on the recovery from an illness. We went
up to his saloon together, and had a talk,--or, rather, he had it nearly all to
himself,--and particularly sensible talk, too, and full of the results of
learning and experience. In the first place, he settled the whole
February 24th.--Yesterday I crossed the Ponte Sisto, and took a short ramble on the other side of the river; and it rather surprised me to discover, pretty nearly opposite the Capitoline Hill, a quay, at which several schooners and barks, of two or three hundred tons' burden, were moored. There was also a steamer, armed with a large gun and two brass swivels on her forecastle, and I know not what artillery besides. Probably she may have been a revenue-cutter.
Returning I crossed the river by way of the
On reaching the hither side of the river, I soon struck upon
the ruins of the theatre of Marcellus, which are very picturesque, and the more
so from being closely linked in, indeed, identified with the shops,
habitations, and swarming life of modern
By this time I knew not whither I was going, and turned
aside from a broad, paved road (it was the
There was a French sentinel at this gateway, as at all the
others; for the Gauls have always been a pest to
February 25th.--We went this forenoon to the Palazzo
Borghese, which is situated on a street that runs at right angles with the
Corso, and very near the latter. Most of
the palaces in
The collection is one of the most celebrated in the world, and contains between eight and nine hundred pictures, many of which are esteemed masterpieces. I think I was not in a frame for admiration to-day, nor could achieve that free and generous surrender of myself which I have already said is essential to the proper estimate of anything excellent. Besides, how is it possible to give one's soul, or any considerable part of it, to a single picture, seen for the first time, among a thousand others, all of which set forth their own claims in an equally good light? Furthermore, there is an external weariness, and sense of a thousand-fold sameness to be overcome, before we can begin to enjoy a gallery of the old Italian masters. . . . . I remember but one painter, Francia, who seems really to have approached this awful class of subjects (Christs and Madonnas) in a fitting spirit; his pictures are very singular and awkward, if you look at them with merely an external eye, but they are full of the beauty of holiness, and evidently wrought out as acts of devotion, with the deepest sincerity; and are veritable prayers upon canvas. . . . .
I was glad, in the very last of the twelve rooms, to come upon some Dutch and Flemish pictures, very few, but very welcome; Rubens, Rembrandt, Vandyke, Paul Potter, Teniers, and others,--men of flesh and blood, and warm fists, and human hearts. As compared with them, these mighty Italian masters seem men of polished steel; not human, nor addressing themselves so much to human sympathies, as to a formed, intellectual taste.
March 1st.--To-day began very unfavorably; but we ventured
out at about eleven o'clock, intending to visit the gallery of the
It rained when we reached the Capitol, and, as the museum was not yet open, we went into the Palace of the Conservators, on the opposite side of the piazza. Around the inner court of the ground-floor, partly under two opposite arcades, and partly under the sky, are several statues and other ancient sculptures; among them a statue of Julius Caesar, said to be the only authentic one, and certainly giving an impression of him more in accordance with his character than the withered old face in the museum; also, a statue of Augustus in middle age, still retaining a resemblance to the bust of him in youth; some gigantic heads and hands and feet in marble and bronze; a stone lion and horse, which lay long at the bottom of a river, broken and corroded, and were repaired by Michel Angelo; and other things which it were wearisome to set down. We inquired of two or three French soldiers the way into the picture-gallery; but it is our experience that French soldiers in Rome never know anything of what is around them, not even the name of the palace or public place over which they stand guard; and though invariably civil, you might as well put a question to a statue of an old Roman as to one of them. While we stood under the loggia, however, looking at the rain plashing into the court, a soldier of the Papal Guard kindly directed us up the staircase, and even took pains to go with us to the very entrance of the picture-rooms. Thank Heaven, there are but two of them, and not many pictures which one cares to look at very long.
Italian galleries are at a disadvantage as compared with
English ones, inasmuch as the pictures are not nearly such splendid articles of
upholstery; though, very likely, having undergone less cleaning and varnishing,
they may retain more perfectly the finer touches of the masters. Nevertheless, I miss the mellow glow, the
rich and mild external lustre, and even the brilliant frames of the pictures I
have seen in
There is a picture at the Capitol, the "Rape of Europa," by Paul Veronese, that would glow with wonderful brilliancy if it were set in a magnificent frame, and covered with a sunshine of varnish; and it is a kind of picture that would not be desecrated, as some deeper and holier ones might be, by any splendor of external adornment that could be bestowed on it. It is deplorable and disheartening to see it in faded and shabby plight,--this joyous, exuberant, warm, voluptuous work. There is the head of a cow, thrust into the picture, and staring with wild, ludicrous wonder at the godlike bull, so as to introduce quite a new sentiment.
Here, and at the
My wife went to revisit the museum, which we had already seen, on the other side of the piazza; but, being cold, I left her there, and went out to ramble in the sun; for it was now brightly, though fitfully, shining again. I walked through the Forum (where a thorn thrust itself out and tore the sleeve of my talma) and under the Arch of Titus, towards the Coliseum. About a score of French drummers were beating a long, loud roll-call, at the base of the Coliseum, and under its arches; and a score of trumpeters responded to these, from the rising ground opposite the Arch of Constantine; and the echoes of the old Roman ruins, especially those of the Palace of the Caesars, responded to this martial uproar of the barbarians. There seemed to be no cause for it; but the drummers beat, and the trumpeters blew, as long as I was within hearing.
I walked along the
March 3d.--This morning was U----'s birthday, and we
celebrated it by taking a barouche, and driving (the whole family) out on the
Appian Way as far as the tomb of Cecilia Metella. For the first time since we came to
Close on the other side of the road are the ruins of a Gothic chapel, little more than a few bare walls and painted windows, and some other fragmentary structures which we did not particularly examine. U---- and I clambered through a gap in the wall, extending from the basement of the tomb, and thus, getting into the field beyond, went quite round the mausoleum and the remains of the castle connected with it. The latter, though still high and stalwart, showed few or no architectural features of interest, being built, I think, principally of large bricks, and not to be compared to English ruins as a beautiful or venerable object.
A little way beyond Cecilia Metella's tomb, the road still
shows a specimen of the ancient Roman pavement, composed of broad, flat
flagstones, a good deal cracked and worn, but sound enough, probably, to
outlast the little cubes which make the other portions of the road so
uncomfortable. We turned back from this
point and soon re-entered the gate of St. Sebastian, which is flanked by two
small towers, and just within which is the old triumphal arch of Drusus,--a
sturdy construction, much dilapidated as regards its architectural beauty, but
rendered far more picturesque than it could have been in its best days by a
crown of verdure on its head. Probably
so much of the dust of the highway has risen in clouds and settled there, that
sufficient soil for shrubbery to root itself has thus been collected, by small
annual contributions, in the course of two thousand years. A little farther towards the city we turned
aside from the
After ascending out of this chamber of the dead, we looked down into another similar one, containing the ashes of Pompey's household, which was discovered only a very few years ago. Its arrangement was the same as that first described, except that it had no central pier with a passage round it, as the former had.
While we were down in the first chamber the proprietor of the spot--a half-gentlemanly and very affable kind of person--came to us, and explained the arrangements of the Columbarium, though, indeed, we understood them better by their own aspect than by his explanation. The whole soil around his dwelling is elevated much above the level of the road, and it is probable that, if he chose to excavate, he might bring to light many more sepulchral chambers, and find his profit in them too, by disposing of the urns and busts. What struck me as much as anything was the neatness of these subterranean apartments, which were quite as fit to sleep in as most of those occupied by living Romans; and, having undergone no wear and tear, they were in as good condition as on the day they were built.
In this Columbarium, measuring about twenty feet square, I roughly estimate that there have been deposited together the remains of at least seven or eight hundred persons, reckoning two little heaps of bones and ashes in each pigeon-hole, nine pigeon-holes in each row, and nine rows on each side, besides those on the middle pier. All difficulty in finding space for the dead would be obviated by returning to the ancient fashion of reducing them to ashes,--the only objection, though a very serious one, being the quantity of fuel that it would require. But perhaps future chemists may discover some better means of consuming or dissolving this troublesome mortality of ours.
We got into the carriage again, and, driving farther towards
the city, came to the tomb of the Scipios, of the exterior of which I retain no
very definite idea. It was close upon
One visit that we made, and I think it was before entering
the city gates, I forgot to mention. It
was to an old edifice, formerly called the
On account of ------ I am sorry that we did not see the grotto, for her enthusiasm is as fresh as the waters of Egeria's well can be, and she has poetical faith enough to light her cheerfully through all these mists of incredulity.
Our visits to sepulchral places ended with Scipio's tomb, whence we returned to our dwelling, and Miss M------ came to dine with us.
March 10th.--On Saturday last, a very rainy day, we went to
[I cannot refrain from observing here, that Mr. Hawthorne's inexorable demand for perfection in all things leads him to complain of grimy pictures and tarnished frames and faded frescos, distressing beyond measure to eyes that never failed to see everything before him with the keenest apprehension. The usual careless observation of people both of the good and the imperfect is much more comfortable in this imperfect world. But the insight which Mr. Hawthorne possessed was only equalled by his outsight, and he suffered in a way not to be readily conceived, from any failure in beauty, physical, moral, or intellectual. It is not, therefore, mere love of upholstery that impels him to ask for perfect settings to priceless gems of art; but a native idiosyncrasy, which always made me feel that "the New Jerusalem," "even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal," "where shall in no wise enter anything that defileth, neither what worketh abomination nor maketh a lie," would alone satisfy him, or rather alone not give him actual pain. It may give an idea of this exquisite nicety of feeling to mention, that one day he took in his fingers a half-bloomed rose, without blemish, and, smiling with an infinite joy, remarked, "This is perfect. On earth a flower only can be perfect."--ED.]
The palace is about two hundred and fifty years old, and looks as if it had never been a very cheerful place; most shabbily and scantily furnished, moreover, and as chill as any cellar. There is a small balcony, looking down on the Corso, which probably has often been filled with a merry little family party, in the carnivals of days long past. It has faded frescos, and tarnished gilding, and green blinds, and a few damask chairs still remain in it.
On Monday we all went to the sculpture-gallery of the
Yesterday, we went to the
In the whole immense range of rooms I saw but a single fireplace, and that so deep in the wall that no amount of blaze would raise the atmosphere of the room ten degrees. If the builder of the palace, or any of his successors, have committed crimes worthy of Tophet, it would be a still worse punishment for him to wander perpetually through this suite of rooms on the cold floors of polished brick tiles or marble or mosaic, growing a little chiller and chiller through every moment of eternity,--or, at least, till the palace crumbles down upon him.
Neither would it assuage his torment in the least to be compelled to gaze up at the dark old pictures,--the ugly ghosts of what may once have been beautiful. I am not going to try any more to receive pleasure from a faded, tarnished, lustreless picture, especially if it be a landscape. There were two or three landscapes of Claude in this palace, which I doubt not would have been exquisite if they had been in the condition of those in the British National Gallery; but here they looked most forlorn, and even their sunshine was sunless. The merits of historical painting may be quite independent of the attributes that give pleasure, and a superficial ugliness may even heighten the effect; but not so of landscapes.
Via Porta, Palazzo Larazani, March 11th.--To-day we called at Mr. Thompson's studio, and . . . . he had on the easel a little picture of St. Peter released from prison by the angel, which I saw once before. It is very beautiful indeed, and deeply and spiritually conceived, and I wish I could afford to have it finished for myself. I looked again, too, at his Georgian slave, and admired it as much as at first view; so very warm and rich it is, so sensuously beautiful, and with an expression of higher life and feeling within. I do not think there is a better painter than Mr. Thompson living,--among Americans at least; not one so earnest, faithful, and religious in his worship of art. I had rather look at his pictures than at any except the very finest of the old masters, and, taking into consideration only the comparative pleasure to be derived, I would not except more than one or two of those. In painting, as in literature, I suspect there is something in the productions of the day that takes the fancy more than the works of any past age,--not greater merit, nor nearly so great, but better suited to this very present time.
After leaving him, we went to the Piazza de' Termini, near
the Baths of Diocletian, and found our way with some difficulty to Crawford's
studio. It occupies several great rooms, connected with the offices of the Villa
Negroni; and all these rooms were full of plaster casts and a few works in
marble,--principally portions of his huge Washington monument, which he left
unfinished at his death. Close by the
door at which we entered stood a gigantic figure of Mason, in bag-wig, and the
coat, waistcoat, breeches, and knee and shoe buckles of the last century, the
enlargement of these unheroic matters to far more than heroic size having a
very odd effect. There was a figure of
People were at work chiselling several statues in marble from the plaster models,--a very interesting process, and which I should think a doubtful and hazardous one; but the artists say that there is no risk of mischief, and that the model is sure to be accurately repeated in the marble. These persons, who do what is considered the mechanical part of the business, are often themselves sculptors, and of higher reputation than those who employ them.
It is rather sad to think that Crawford died before he could see his ideas in the marble, where they gleam with so pure and celestial a light as compared with the plaster. There is almost as much difference as between flesh and spirit.
The floor of one of the rooms was burdened with immense
packages, containing parts of the
March 14th.--On Friday evening I dined at Mr. T. B. Read's,
the poet and artist, with a party composed of painters and sculptors,--the only
exceptions being the American banker and an American tourist who has given Mr.
Read a commission. Next to me at table
sat Mr. Gibson, the English sculptor, who, I suppose, stands foremost in his
profession at this day. He must be quite
an old man now, for it was whispered about the table that he is known to have
He has a quiet, self-contained aspect, and, being a
bachelor, has doubtless spent a calm life among his clay and marble, meddling
little with the world, and entangling himself with no cares beyond his studio.
He did not talk a great deal; but enough to show that he is still an Englishman
in many sturdy traits, though his accent has something foreign about it. His conversation was chiefly about
The gist of what he said (upon art) was condemnatory of the Pre-Raphaelite modern school of painters, of whom he seemed to spare none, and of their works nothing; though he allowed that the old Pre-Raphaelites had some exquisite merits, which the moderns entirely omit in their imitations. In his own art, he said the aim should be to find out the principles on which the Greek sculptors wrought, and to do the work of this day on those principles and in their spirit; a fair doctrine enough, I should think, but which Mr. Gibson can scarcely be said to practise. . . . . The difference between the Pre-Raphaelites and himself is deep and genuine, they being literalists and realists, in a certain sense, and he a pagan idealist. Methinks they have hold of the best end of the matter.
March 18th.--To-day, it being very bright and mild, we set out, at noon, for an expedition to the Temple of Vesta, though I did not feel much inclined for walking, having been ill and feverish for two or three days past with a cold, which keeps renewing itself faster than I can get rid of it. We kept along on this side of the Corso, and crossed the Forum, skirting along the Capitoline Hill, and thence towards the Circus Maximus. On our way, looking down a cross street, we saw a heavy arch, and, on examination, made it out to be the Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, standing in the Forum Boarium. Its base is now considerably below the level of the surrounding soil, and there is a church or basilica close by, and some mean edifices looking down upon it. There is something satisfactory in this arch, from the immense solidity of its structure. It gives the idea, in the first place, of a solid mass constructed of huge blocks of marble, which time can never wear away, nor earthquakes shake down; and then this solid mass is penetrated by two arched passages, meeting in the centre. There are empty niches, three in a row, and, I think, two rows on each face; but there seems to have been very little effort to make it a beautiful object. On the top is some brickwork, the remains of a mediaeval fortress built by the Frangipanis, looking very frail and temporary being brought thus in contact with the antique strength of the arch.
A few yards off, across the street, and close beside the basilica, is what appears to be an ancient portal, with carved bas-reliefs, and an inscription which I could not make out. Some Romans were lying dormant in the sun, on the steps of the basilica; indeed, now that the sun is getting warmer, they seem to take advantage of every quiet nook to bask in, and perhaps to go to sleep.
We had gone but a little way from the arch, and across the
Circus Maximus, when we saw the
Within view of it, and, indeed, a very little way off, is the Temple of Fortuna Virilis, which likewise retains its antique form in better preservation than we generally find a Roman ruin, although the Ionic pillars are now built up with blocks of stone and patches of brickwork, the whole constituting a church which is fixed against the side of a tall edifice, the nature of which I do not know.
I forgot to say that we gained admittance into the
In very close vicinity we came upon the Ponto Rotto, the old
Pons Emilius which was broken down long ago, and has recently been pieced out
by connecting a suspension bridge with the old piers. We crossed by this bridge, paying a toll of a
baioccho each, and stopped in the midst of the river to look at the Temple of
Vesta, which shows well, right on the brink of the Tiber. We fancied, too, that we could discern, a
little farther down the river, the ruined and almost submerged piers of the
Sublician bridge, which Horatius Cocles defended. The
After crossing the bridge, we kept along the right bank of
the river, through the dirty and hard-hearted streets of Trastevere (which have
in no respect the advantage over those of hither
Between the pillars of the colonnade, however, we had the pleasant spectacle of the two fountains, sending up their lily-shaped gush, with rainbows shining in their falling spray. Parties of French soldiers, as usual, were undergoing their drill in the piazza. When we entered the church, the long, dusty sunbeams were falling aslantwise through the dome and through the chancel behind it. . . . .
March 23d.--On the 21st we all went to the Coliseum, and enjoyed ourselves there in the bright, warm sun,--so bright and warm that we were glad to get into the shadow of the walls and under the arches, though, after all, there was the freshness of March in the breeze that stirred now and then. J----- and baby found some beautiful flowers growing round about the Coliseum; and far up towards the top of the walls we saw tufts of yellow wall-flowers and a great deal of green grass growing along the ridges between the arches. The general aspect of the place, however, is somewhat bare, and does not compare favorably with an English ruin both on account of the lack of ivy and because the material is chiefly brick, the stone and marble having been stolen away by popes and cardinals to build their palaces. While we sat within the circle, many people, of both sexes, passed through, kissing the iron cross which stands in the centre, thereby gaining an indulgence of seven years, I believe. In front of several churches I have seen an inscription in Latin, "INDULGENTIA PLENARIA ET PERPETUA PRO CUNCTIS MORTUIS ET VIVIS"; than which, it seems to me, nothing more could be asked or desired. The terms of this great boon are not mentioned.
Leaving the Coliseum, we went and sat down in the vicinity
of the Arch of Constantine, and J----- and R----- went in quest of
lizards. J----- soon
caught a large one with two tails; one, a sort of afterthought, or appendix, or
corollary to the original tail, and growing out from it instead of from the
body of the lizard. These reptiles are
very abundant, and J----- has already brought home several, which make their
escape and appear occasionally darting to and fro on the carpet. Since we have been here, J----- has taken up
various pursuits in turn. First he voted
himself to gathering snail-shells, of which there are many sorts; afterwards he
had a fever for marbles, pieces of which he found on the banks of the Tiber,
just on the edge of its muddy waters, and in the Palace of the Caesars, the
Baths of Caracalla, and indeed wherever else his fancy led him; verde antique,
rosso antico, porphyry, giallo antico, serpentine, sometimes fragments of
bas-reliefs and mouldings, bits of mosaic, still firmly stuck together, on
which the foot of a Caesar had perhaps once trodden; pieces of Roman glass,
with the iridescence glowing on them; and all such things, of which the soil of
Rome is full. It would not be difficult,
from the spoil of his boyish rambles, to furnish what would be looked upon as a
curious and valuable museum in
Yesterday we went to the sculpture-galleries of the
I was interested in looking at the busts of the Triumvirs,
March 25th.--On Tuesday we went to breakfast at William
Story's in the Palazzo Barberini. We had
a very pleasant time. He is one of the
most agreeable men I know in society. He
showed us a note from Thackeray, an invitation to dinner, written in
hieroglyphics, with great fun and pictorial merit. He spoke of an expansion of the story of Blue
Beard, which he himself had either written or thought of writing, in which the
contents of the several chambers which
After breakfast, we went to the Barberini Library, passing through the vast hall, which occupies the central part of the palace. It is the most splendid domestic hall I have seen, eighty feet in length at least, and of proportionate breadth and height; and the vaulted ceiling is entirely covered, to its utmost edge and remotest corners, with a brilliant painting in fresco, looking like a whole heaven of angelic people descending towards the floor. The effect is indescribably gorgeous. On one side stands a Baldacchino, or canopy of state, draped with scarlet cloth, and fringed with gold embroidery; the scarlet indicating that the palace is inhabited by a cardinal. Green would be appropriate to a prince. In point of fact, the Palazzo Barberini is inhabited by a cardinal, a prince, and a duke, all belonging to the Barberini family, and each having his separate portion of the palace, while their servants have a common territory and meeting-ground in this noble hall.
After admiring it for a few minutes, we made our exit by a door on the opposite side, and went up the spiral staircase of marble to the library, where we were received by an ecclesiastic, who belongs to the Barberini household, and, I believe, was born in it. He is a gentle, refined, quiet-looking man, as well he may be, having spent all his life among these books, where few people intrude, and few cares can come. He showed us a very old Bible in parchment, a specimen of the earliest printing,
beautifully ornamented with pictures, and some monkish illuminations of indescribable delicacy and elaboration. No artist could afford to produce such work, if the life that he thus lavished on one sheet of parchment had any value to him, either for what could be done or enjoyed in it. There are about eight thousand volumes in this library, and, judging by their outward aspect, the collection must be curious and valuable; but having another engagement, we could spend only a little time here. We had a hasty glance, however, of some poems of Tasso, in his own autograph.
We then went to the Palazzo Galitzin, where dwell the Misses
Weston, with whom we lunched, and where we met a French abbe, an agreeable man,
and an antiquarian, under whose auspices two of the ladies and ourselves took
carriage for the
After we had descended to the bottom of this passage, and again retraced our steps to the highest part, the guide took a large cannon-ball, and sent it, with his whole force, rolling down the hollow, arched way, rumbling, and reverberating, and bellowing forth long thunderous echoes, and winding up with a loud, distant crash, that seemed to come from the very bowels of the earth.
We saw the place, near the centre of the mausoleum, and lighted from above, through an immense thickness of stone and brick, where the ashes of the emperor and his fellow-slumberers were found. It is as much as twelve centuries, very likely, since they were scattered to the winds, for the tomb has been nearly or quite that space of time a fortress; The tomb itself is merely the base and foundation of the castle, and, being so massively built, it serves just as well for the purpose as if it were a solid granite rock. The mediaeval fortress, with its antiquity of more than a thousand years, and having dark and deep dungeons of its own, is but a modern excrescence on the top of Hadrian's tomb.
We now ascended towards the upper region, and were led into the vaults which used to serve as a prison, but which, if I mistake not, are situated above the ancient structure, although they seem as damp and subterranean as if they were fifty feet under the earth. We crept down to them through narrow and ugly passages, which the torchlight would not illuminate, and, stooping under a low, square entrance, we followed the guide into a small, vaulted room,--not a room, but an artificial cavern, remote from light or air, where Beatrice Cenci was confined before her execution. According to the abbe, she spent a whole year in this dreadful pit, her trial having dragged on through that length of time. How ghostlike she must have looked when she came forth! Guido never painted that beautiful picture from her blanched face, as it appeared after this confinement. And how rejoiced she must have been to die at last, having already been in a sepulchre so long!
Adjacent to Beatrice's prison, but not communicating with
it, was that of her step-mother; and next to the latter was one that interested
me almost as much as Beatrice's,--that of Benvenuto Cellini, who was confined
here, I believe, for an assassination.
All these prison vaults are more horrible than can be imagined without
seeing them; but there are worse places here, for the guide lifted a trap-door
in one of the passages, and held his torch down into an inscrutable pit beneath
our feet. It was an oubliette, a dungeon
where the prisoner might be buried alive, and never come forth again, alive or
dead. Groping about among these sad
precincts, we saw various other things that looked very dismal; but at last
emerged into the sunshine, and ascended from one platform and battlement to another,
till we found ourselves right at the feet of the Archangel Michael. He has stood there in bronze for I know not
how many hundred years, in the act of sheathing a (now) rusty sword, such being
the attitude in which he appeared to one of the popes in a vision, in token
that a pestilence which was then desolating
There is a fine view from the lofty station over
The fortress is a straight-lined structure on the summit of the immense round tower of Hadrian's tomb; and to make out the idea of it we must throw in drawbridges, esplanades, piles of ancient marble balls for cannon; battlements and embrasures, lying high in the breeze and sunshine, and opening views round the whole horizon; accommodation for the soldiers; and many small beds in a large room.
How much mistaken was the emperor in his expectation of a stately, solemn repose for his ashes through all the coming centuries, as long as the world should endure! Perhaps his ghost glides up and down disconsolate, in that spiral passage which goes from top to bottom of the tomb, while the barbarous Gauls plant themselves in his very mausoleum to keep the imperial city in awe.
We wandered about the grounds, and found them very beautiful indeed; nature having done much for them by an undulating variety of surface, and art having added a good many charms, which have all the better effect now that decay and neglect have thrown a natural grace over them likewise. There is an artificial ruin, so picturesque that it betrays itself; weather-beaten statues, and pieces of sculpture, scattered here and there; an artificial lake, with upgushing fountains; cascades, and broad-bosomed coves, and long, canal-like reaches, with swans taking their delight upon them. I never saw such a glorious and resplendent lustre of white as shone between the wings of two of these swans. It was really a sight to see, and not to be imagined beforehand. Angels, no doubt, have just such lustrous wings as those. English swans partake of the dinginess of the atmosphere, and their plumage has nothing at all to be compared to this; in fact, there is nothing like it in the world, unless it be the illuminated portion of a fleecy, summer cloud.
While we were sauntering along beside this piece of water,
we were surprised to see U---- on the other side. She had come hither with E----S------ and her
two little brothers, and with our R-----, the whole under the charge of Mrs.
Story's nursery-maids. U---- and E---- crossed, not over, but beneath the water, through
a grotto, and exchanged greetings with us.
Then, as it was getting towards sunset and cool, we took our departure;
the abbe, as we left the grounds, taking me aside to give me a glimpse of a
Columbarium, which descends into the earth to about the depth to which an
ordinary house might rise above it.
These grounds, it is said, formed the country residence of the Emperor
Galba, and he was buried here after his assassination. It is a sad thought that so much natural
beauty and long refinement of picturesque culture is thrown away, the villa
being uninhabitable during all the most delightful season of the year on
account of malaria. There is truly a
On our way home we passed by the great Paolina fountain, and were assailed by many beggars during the short time we stopped to look at it. It is a very copious fountain, but not so beautiful as the Trevi, taking into view merely the water-gush of the latter.
March 26th.--Yesterday, between twelve and one, our whole family went to the Villa Ludovisi, the entrance to which is at the termination of a street which passes out of the Piazza Barberini, and it is no very great distance from our own street, Via Porta Pinciana. The grounds, though very extensive, are wholly within the walls of the city, which skirt them, and comprise a part of what were formerly the gardens of Sallust. The villa is now the property of Prince Piombini, a ticket from whom procured us admission. A little within the gateway, to the right, is a casino, containing two large rooms filled with sculpture, much of which is very valuable. A colossal head of Juno, I believe, is considered the greatest treasure of the collection, but I did not myself feel it to be so, nor indeed did I receive any strong impression of its excellence. I admired nothing so much, I think, as the face of Penelope (if it be her face) in the group supposed also to represent Electra and Orestes. The sitting statue of Mars is very fine; so is the Arria and Paetus; so are many other busts and figures.
By and by we left the casino and wandered among the grounds,
threading interminable alleys of cypress, through the long vistas of which we
could see here and there a statue, an urn, a pillar, a temple, or garden-house,
or a bas-relief against the wall. It
seems as if there must have been a time, and not so very long ago,--when it was
worth while to spend money and thought upon the ornamentation of grounds in the
We came to another and larger casino remote from the
gateway, in which the Prince resides during two months of the year. It was now under repair, but we gained
admission, as did several other visitors, and saw in the entrance-hall the
Aurora of Guercino, painted in fresco on the ceiling. There is beauty in the design; but the
painter certainly was most unhappy in his black shadows, and in the work before
us they give the impression of a cloudy and lowering morning which is likely
enough to turn to rain by and by. After
viewing the fresco we mounted by a spiral staircase to a lofty terrace, and
One of the most striking objects in the first casino was a group by Bernini,--Pluto, an outrageously masculine and strenuous figure, heavily bearded, ravishing away a little, tender Proserpine, whom he holds aloft, while his forcible gripe impresses itself into her soft virgin flesh. It is very disagreeable, but it makes one feel that Bernini was a man of great ability. There are some works in literature that bear an analogy to his works in sculpture, when great power is lavished a little outside of nature, and therefore proves to be only a fashion,--and not permanently adapted to the tastes of mankind.
March 27th.--Yesterday forenoon my wife and I went to St.
Peter's to see the pope pray at the chapel of the Holy Sacrament. We found a good many people in the church,
but not an inconvenient number; indeed, not so many as to make any remarkable
show in the great nave, nor even in front of the chapel. A detachment of the Swiss Guard, in their
strange, picturesque, harlequin-like costume, were on duty before the chapel,
in which the wax tapers were all lighted, and a prie-dieu was arranged near the
shrine, and covered with scarlet velvet.
On each side, along the breadth of the side aisle, were placed seats,
covered with rich tapestry or carpeting; and some gentlemen and
ladies--English, probably, or American--had comfortably deposited themselves
here, but were compelled to move by the guards before the pope's entrance. His Holiness should have appeared precisely
at twelve, but we waited nearly half an hour beyond that time; and it seemed to
me particularly ill-mannered in the pope, who owes the courtesy of being
punctual to the people, if not to St. Peter.
By and by, however, there was a stir; the guard motioned to us to stand
away from the benches, against the backs of which we had been leaning; the
spectators in the nave looked towards the door, as if they beheld something
approaching; and first, there appeared some cardinals, in scarlet skull-caps
and purple robes, intermixed with some of the Noble Guard and other
attendants. It was not a very formal and
stately procession, but rather straggled onward, with ragged edges, the spectators
standing aside to let it pass, and merely bowing, or perhaps slightly bending
the knee, as good Catholics are accustomed to do when passing before the
shrines of saints. Then, in the midst of
the purple cardinals, all of whom were gray-haired men, appeared a stout old
man, with a white skull-cap, a scarlet, gold-embroidered cape falling over his
shoulders, and a white silk robe, the train of which was borne up by an
attendant. He walked slowly, with a sort
of dignified movement, stepping out broadly, and planting his feet (on which
were red shoes) flat upon the pavement, as if he were not much accustomed to
locomotion, and perhaps had known a twinge of the gout. His face was kindly and venerable, but not
particularly impressive. Arriving at the
scarlet-covered prie-dieu, he kneeled down and took off his white skull-cap;
the cardinals also kneeled behind and on either side of him, taking off their
scarlet skull-caps; while the Noble Guard remained standing, six on one side of
his Holiness and six on the other. The
pope bent his head upon the prie-dieu, and seemed to spend three or four
minutes in prayer; then rose, and all the purple cardinals, and bishops, and
priests, of whatever degree, rose behind and beside him. Next, he went to kiss St. Peter's toe; at
least I believe he kissed it, but I was not near enough to be certain; and
lastly, he knelt down, and directed his devotions towards the high altar. This completed the ceremonies, and his
Holiness left the church by a side door, making a short passage into the
I am very glad I have seen the pope, because now he may be crossed out of the list of sights to be seen. His proximity impressed me kindly and favorably towards him, and I did not see one face among all his cardinals (in whose number, doubtless, is his successor) which I would so soon trust as that of Pio Nono.
This morning I walked as far as the gate of San Paolo, and,
on approaching it, I saw the gray sharp pyramid of Caius Cestius pointing
upward close to the two dark-brown, battlemented Gothic towers of the gateway,
each of these very different pieces of architecture looking the more
picturesque for the contrast of the other.
Before approaching the gateway and pyramid, I walked onward, and soon
came in sight of Monte Testaccio, the artificial hill made of potsherds. There is a gate admitting into the grounds
around the hill, and a road encircling its base. At a distance, the hill looks greener than
any other part of the landscape, and has all the curved outlines of a natural
hill, resembling in shape a headless sphinx, or
I walked quite round the hill, and saw, at no great distance
from it, the enclosure of the Protestant burial-ground, which lies so close to
the pyramid of Caius Cestius that the latter may serve as a general monument to
the dead. Deferring, for the present, a
visit to the cemetery, or to the interior of the pyramid, I returned to the
gateway of San Paolo, and, passing through it, took a view of it from the
outside of the city wall. It is itself a portion of the wall, having been built
into it by the Emperor Aurelian, so that about half of it lies within and half
without. The brick or red stone material of the wall being so unlike the marble
of the pyramid, the latter is as distinct, and seems as insulated, as if it
stood alone in the centre of a plain; and really I do not think there is a more
striking architectural object in
It is good and satisfactory to see anything which, being built for an enduring monument, has endured so faithfully, and has a prospect of such an interminable futurity before it. Once, indeed, it seemed likely to be buried; for three hundred years ago it had become covered to the depth of sixteen feet, but the soil has since been dug away from its base, which is now lower than that of the road which passes through the neighboring gate of San Paolo. Midway up the pyramid, cut in the marble, is an inscription in large Roman letters, still almost as legible as when first wrought.
I did not return through the Paolo gateway, but kept onward, round the exterior of the wall, till I came to the gate of San Sebastiano. It was a hot and not a very interesting walk, with only a high bare wall of brick, broken by frequent square towers, on one side of the road, and a bank and hedge or a garden wall on the other. Roman roads are most inhospitable, offering no shade, and no seat, and no pleasant views of rustic domiciles; nothing but the wheel-track of white dust, without a foot path running by its side, and seldom any grassy margin to refresh the wayfarer's feet.
April 3d.--A few days ago we visited the studio of Mr.
------, an American, who seems to have a good deal of vogue as a sculptor. We found a figure of Pocahontas, which he has
repeated several times; another, which he calls "The Wept of the
Wish-ton-Wish," a figure of a smiling girl playing with a cat and dog, and
a schoolboy mending a pen. These two
last were the only ones that gave me any pleasure, or that really had any
merit; for his cleverness and ingenuity appear in homely subjects, but are
quite lost in attempts at a higher ideality.
Nevertheless, he has a group of the Prodigal Son, possessing more merit
than I should have expected from Mr. ------, the son reclining his head on his
father's breast, with an expression of utter weariness, at length finding
perfect rest, while the father bends his benign countenance over him, and seems
to receive him calmly into himself. This
group (the plaster-cast standing beside it) is now taking shape out of an
immense block of marble, and will be as indestructible as the Laocoon; an idea
at once awful and ludicrous, when we consider that it is at best but a
respectable production. I have since
been told that Mr. ------ had stolen, adopted, we will rather say, the attitude
and idea of the group from one executed by a student of the
Mr. ------ has now been ten years in Italy, and, after all this time, he is still entirely American in everything but the most external surface of his manners; scarcely Europeanized, or much modified even in that. He is a native of ------, but had his early breeding in New York, and might, for any polish or refinement that I can discern in him, still be a country shopkeeper in the interior of New York State or New England. How strange! For one expects to find the polish, the close grain and white purity of marble, in the artist who works in that noble material; but, after all, he handles club, and, judging by the specimens I have seen here, is apt to be clay, not of the finest, himself. Mr. ------ is sensible, shrewd, keen, clever; an ingenious workman, no doubt; with tact enough, and not destitute of taste; very agreeable and lively in his conversation, talking as fast and as naturally as a brook runs, without the slightest affectation. His naturalness is, in fact, a rather striking characteristic, in view of his lack of culture, while yet his life has been concerned with idealities and a beautiful art. What degree of taste he pretends to, he seems really to possess, nor did I hear a single idea from him that struck me as otherwise than sensible.
He called to see us last evening, and talked for about two
hours in a very amusing and interesting style, his topics being taken from his
own personal experience, and shrewdly treated.
He spoke much of Greenough, whom he described as an excellent critic of
art, but possessed of not the slightest inventive genius. His statue of
------, and as her studio seems to be mixed up with Gibson's, we had an
opportunity of glancing at some of his beautiful works. We saw a Venus and a Cupid, both of them tinted; and, side by side with them, other statues identical with these, except that the marble was left in its pure whiteness.
We found Miss ------ in a little upper room. She has a small, brisk, wide-awake figure, not ungraceful; frank, simple, straightforward, and downright. She had on a robe, I think, but I did not look so low, my attention being chiefly drawn to a sort of man's sack of purple or plum-colored broadcloth, into the side-pockets of which her hands were thrust as she came forward to greet us. She withdrew one hand, however, and presented it cordially to my wife (whom she already knew) and to myself, without waiting for an introduction. She had on a shirt-front, collar, and cravat like a man's, with a brooch of Etruscan gold, and on her curly head was a picturesque little cap of black velvet, and her face was as bright and merry, and as small of feature as a child's. It looked in one aspect youthful, and yet there was something worn in it too. There never was anything so jaunty as her movement and action; she was very peculiar, but she seemed to be her actual self, and nothing affected or made up; so that, for my part, I gave her full leave to wear what may suit her best, and to behave as her inner woman prompts. I don't quite see, however, what she is to do when she grows older, for the decorum of age will not be consistent with a costume that looks pretty and excusable enough in a young woman.
Miss ------ led us into a part of the extensive studio, or collection of studios, where some of her own works were to be seen: Beatrice Cenci, which did not very greatly impress me; and a monumental design, a female figure,--wholly draped even to the stockings and shoes,--in a quiet sleep. I liked this last. There was also a Puck, doubtless full of fun; but I had hardly time to glance at it. Miss ------ evidently has good gifts in her profession, and doubtless she derives great advantage from her close association with a consummate artist like Gibson; nor yet does his influence seem to interfere with the originality of her own conceptions. In one way, at least, she can hardly fail to profit,--that is, by the opportunity of showing her works to the throngs of people who go to see Gibson's own; and these are just such people as an artist would most desire to meet, and might never see in a lifetime, if left to himself. I shook hands with this frank and pleasant little person, and took leave, not without purpose of seeing her again.
Within a few days, there have been many pilgrims in
April 10th.--I have made no entries in my journal recently,
being exceedingly lazy, partly from indisposition, as well as from an
atmosphere that takes the vivacity out of everybody. Not much has happened or been effected. Last Sunday, which was Easter Sunday, I went
with J----- to St. Peter's, where we arrived at about nine o'clock, and found a
multitude of people already assembled in the church. The interior was arrayed in festal guise,
there being a covering of scarlet damask over the pilasters of the nave, from
base to capital, giving an effect of splendor, yet with a loss as to the
apparent dimensions of the interior. A
guard of soldiers occupied the nave, keeping open a wide space for the passage
of a procession that was momently expected, and soon arrived. The crowd was too great to allow of my seeing
it in detail; but I could perceive that there were priests, cardinals, Swiss
guards, some of them with corselets on, and by and by the pope himself was
borne up the nave, high over the heads of all, sitting under a canopy, crowned
with his tiara. He floated slowly along,
and was set down in the neighborhood of the high altar; and the procession
being broken up, some of its scattered members might be seen here and there,
about the church,--officials in antique Spanish dresses; Swiss guards, in
polished steel breastplates; serving-men, in richly embroidered liveries;
officers, in scarlet coats and military boots; priests, and divers other shapes
of men; for the papal ceremonies seem to forego little or nothing that belongs
to times past, while it includes everything appertaining to the present. I ought to have waited to witness the papal
benediction from the balcony in front of the church; or, at least, to hear the
famous silver trumpets, sounding from the dome; but J----- grew weary (to say
the truth, so did I), and we went on a long walk, out of the nearest city gate,
and back through the Janiculum, and, finally, homeward over the Ponto
Rotto. Standing on the bridge, I saw the
arch of the Cloaca Maxima, close by the
The same evening we went to Monte Cavallo, where, from the
gateway of the
After we had enjoyed the silver illumination a good while,
and when all the daylight had given place to the constellated night, the
distant outline of St. Peter's burst forth, in the twinkling of an eye, into a
starry blaze, being quite the finest effect that I ever witnessed. I stayed to see it, however, only a few
minutes; for I was quite ill and feverish with a cold,--which, indeed, I have
seldom been free from, since my first breathing of the genial atmosphere of
On Thursday, I paid another visit to the sculpture-gallery of the Capitol, where I was particularly struck with a bust of Cato the Censor, who must have been the most disagreeable, stubborn, ugly-tempered, pig-headed, narrow-minded, strong-willed old Roman that ever lived. The collection of busts here and at the Vatican are most interesting, many of the individual heads being full of character, and commending themselves by intrinsic evidence as faithful portraits of the originals. These stone people have stood face to face with Caesar, and all the other emperors, and with statesmen, soldiers, philosophers, and poets of the antique world, and have been to them like their reflections in a mirror. It is the next thing to seeing the men themselves.
We went afterwards into the Palace of the Conservatori, and
saw, among various other interesting things, the bronze wolf suckling
On Friday, we all went to see the Pope's Palace on the
It would suit me well enough to have my daily walk along such straight paths, for I think them favorable to thought, which is apt to be disturbed by variety and unexpectedness.
April 12th.--We all, except R-----, went to-day to the
Vatican, where we found our way to the Stanze of Raphael, these being four
rooms, or halls, painted with frescos.
No doubt they were once very brilliant and beautiful; but they have
encountered hard treatment since Raphael's time, especially when the soldiers
of the Constable de Bourbon occupied these apartments, and made fires on the
mosaic floors. The entire walls and
ceilings are covered with pictures; but the handiwork or designs of Raphael
consist of paintings on the four sides of each room, and include several works
of art. The
The halls themselves are specimens of antique magnificence, paved with elaborate mosaics; and wherever there is any wood-work, it is richly carved with foliage and figures. In their newness, and probably for a hundred years afterwards, there could not have been so brilliant a suite of rooms in the world.
Connected with them--at any rate, not far distant--is the little Chapel of San Lorenzo, the very site of which,
among the thousands of apartments of the
We next issued into the Loggie, which consist of a long
gallery, or arcade or colonnade, the whole extent of which was once beautifully
adorned by Raphael. These pictures are
almost worn away, and so defaced as to be untraceable and unintelligible, along
the side wall of the gallery; although traceries of Arabesque,
and compartments where there seem to have been rich paintings, but now only an
indistinguishable waste of dull color, are still to be seen. In the coved ceiling, however, there are
still some bright frescos, in better preservation than any others; not
particularly beautiful, nevertheless. I
remember to have seen (indeed, we ourselves possess them) a series of very
spirited and energetic engravings, old and coarse, of these frescos, the
subject being the Creation, and the early Scripture history; and I really think
that their translation of the pictures is better than the original. On reference to
Escaping from these forlorn splendors, we went into the sculpture-gallery, where I was able to enjoy, in some small degree, two or three wonderful works of art; and had a perception that there were a thousand other wonders around me. It is as if the statues kept, for the most part, a veil about them, which they sometimes withdraw, and let their beauty gleam upon my sight; only a glimpse, or two or three glimpses, or a little space of calm enjoyment, and then I see nothing but a discolored marble image again. The Minerva Medica revealed herself to-day. I wonder whether other people are more fortunate than myself, and can invariably find their way to the inner soul of a work of art. I doubt it; they look at these things for just a minute, and pass on, without any pang of remorse, such as I feel, for quitting them so soon and so willingly. I am partly sensible that some unwritten rules of taste are making their way into my mind; that all this Greek beauty has done something towards refining me, though I am still, however, a very sturdy Goth. . . . .
April 15th.--Yesterday I went with J----- to the Forum, and
descended into the excavations at the base of the Capitol, and on the site of
the Basilica of Julia. The essential
elements of old Rome are there: columns, single, or in groups of two or three,
still erect, but battered and bruised at some forgotten time with infinite
pains and labor; fragments of other columns lying prostrate, together with rich
capitals and friezes; the bust of a colossal female statue, showing the bosom
and upper part of the arms, but headless; a long, winding space of pavement,
forming part of the ancient ascent to the Capitol, still as firm and solid as
ever; the foundation of the Capitol itself, wonderfully massive, built of immense
square blocks of stone, doubtless three thousand years old, and durable for
whatever may be the lifetime of the world; the Arch of Septimius, Severus, with
bas-reliefs of Eastern wars; the Column of Phocas, with the rude series of
steps ascending on four sides to its pedestal; the floor of beautiful and
precious marbles in the Basilica of Julia, the slabs cracked across,--the
greater part of them torn up and removed, the grass and weeds growing up
through the chinks of what remain; heaps of bricks, shapeless bits of granite,
and other ancient rubbish, among which old men are lazily rummaging for
specimens that a stranger may be induced to buy,--this being an employment that
suits the indolence of a modern Roman.
The level of these excavations is about fifteen feet, I should judge,
below the present street, which passes through the Forum, and only a very small
part of this alien surface has been removed, though there can be no doubt that
it hides numerous treasures of art and monuments of history. Yet these remains do not make that impression
of antiquity upon me which Gothic ruins do.
Perhaps it is so because they belong to quite another system of society
and epoch of time, and, in view of them, we forget all that has intervened
betwixt them and us; being morally unlike and disconnected with them, and not
belonging to the same train of thought; so that we look across a gulf to the
Roman ages, and do not realize how wide the gulf is. Yet in that intervening valley lie
Christianity, the Dark Ages, the feudal system, chivalry and romance, and a
deeper life of the human race than
To-day we went to the
In the room at the entrance of the hall are two cabinets, each a wonder in its way,--one being adorned with precious stones; the other with ivory carvings of Michael Angelo's Last Judgment, and of the frescos of Raphael's Loggie. The world has ceased to be so magnificent as it once was. Men make no such marvels nowadays. The only defect that I remember in this hall was in the marble steps that ascend to the elevated apartment at the end of it; a large piece had been broken out of one of them, leaving a rough irregular gap in the polished marble stair. It is not easy to conceive what violence can have done this, without also doing mischief to all the other splendor around it.
April 16th.--We went this morning to the Academy of St. Luke
(the Fine Arts Academy at Rome) in the Via Bonella, close by the Forum. We rang the bell at the house door; and after
a few moments it was unlocked or unbolted by some unseen agency from above, no
one making his appearance to admit us.
We ascended two or three flights of stairs, and entered a hall, where was a young man, the custode, and two or three artists
engaged in copying some of the pictures.
The collection not being vastly large, and the pictures being in more
presentable condition than usual, I enjoyed them more than I generally do;
particularly a Virgin and Child by Vandyke, where two angels are singing and
playing, one on a lute and the other on a violin, to remind the holy infant of
the strains he used to hear in heaven.
It is one of the few pictures that there is really any pleasure in looking
at. There were several paintings by
Titian, mostly of a voluptuous character, but not very charming; also two or
more by Guido, one of which, representing Fortune, is celebrated. They did not impress me much, nor do I find
myself strongly drawn towards Guido, though there is no other painter who seems
to achieve things so magically and inscrutably as he sometimes does. Perhaps it requires a finer taste than mine
to appreciate him; and yet I do appreciate him so far as to see that his
Michael, for instance, is perfectly beautiful. . . . . In the gallery, there
are whole rows of portraits of members of the
From St. Luke's we went to San Pietro in Vincoli, occupying
a fine position on or near the summit of the Esquiline mount. A little abortion of a man (and, by the by,
there are more diminutive and ill-shapen men and women in Rome than I ever saw
elsewhere, a phenomenon to be accounted for, perhaps, by their custom of
wrapping the new-born infant in swaddling-clothes), this two-foot abortion
hastened before us, as we drew nigh, to summon the sacristan to open the church
door. It was a needless service, for
which we rewarded him with two baiocchi.
San Pietro is a simple and noble church, consisting of a nave divided
from the side aisles by rows of columns, that once adorned some ancient temple;
and its wide, unencumbered interior affords better breathing-space than most
Besides the Moses, the church contains some attractions of a pictorial kind, which are reposited in the sacristy, into which we passed through a side door. The most remarkable of these pictures is a face and bust of Hope, by Guido, with beautiful eyes lifted upwards; it has a grace which artists are continually trying to get into their innumerable copies, but always without success; for, indeed, though nothing is more true than the existence of this charm in the picture, yet if you try to analyze it, or even look too intently at it, it vanishes, till you look again with more trusting simplicity.
Leaving the church, we wandered to the Coliseum, and to the public grounds contiguous to them, where a score and more of French drummers were beating each man his drum, without reference to any rub-a-dub but his own. This seems to be a daily or periodical practice and point of duty with them. After resting ourselves on one of the marble benches, we came slowly home, through the Basilica of Constantine, and along the shady sides of the streets and piazzas, sometimes, perforce, striking boldly through the white sunshine, which, however, was not so hot as to shrivel us up bodily. It has been a most beautiful and perfect day as regards weather, clear and bright, very warm in the sunshine, yet freshened throughout by a quiet stir in the air. Still there is something in this air malevolent, or, at least, not friendly. The Romans lie down and fall asleep in it, in any vacant part of the streets, and wherever they can find any spot sufficiently clean, and among the ruins of temples. I would not sleep in the open air for whatever my life may be worth.
On our way home, sitting in one of the narrow streets, we saw an old woman spinning with a distaff; a far more ancient implement than the spinning-wheel, which the housewives of other nations have long since laid aside.
April 18th.--Yesterday, at noon, the whole family of us set out on a visit to the Villa Borghese and its grounds, the entrance to which is just outside of the Porta del Popolo. After getting within the grounds, however, there is a long walk before reaching the casino, and we found the sun rather uncomfortably hot, and the road dusty and white in the sunshine; nevertheless, a footpath ran alongside of it most of the way through the grass and among the young trees. It seems to me that the trees do not put forth their leaves with nearly the same magical rapidity in this southern land at the approach of summer, as they do in more northerly countries. In these latter, having a much shorter time to develop themselves, they feel the necessity of making the most of it. But the grass, in the lawns and enclosures along which we passed, looked already fit to be mowed, and it was interspersed with many flowers.
Saturday being, I believe, the only day of the week on which visitors are admitted to the casino, there were many parties in carriages, artists on foot, gentlemen on horseback, and miscellaneous people, to whom the door was opened by a custode on ringing a bell. The whole of the basement floor of the casino, comprising a suite of beautiful rooms, is filled with statuary. The entrance hall is a very splendid apartment, brightly frescoed, and paved with ancient mosaics, representing the combats with beasts and gladiators in the Coliseum, curious, though very rudely and awkwardly designed, apparently after the arts had begun to decline. Many of the specimens of sculpture displayed in these rooms are fine, but none of them, I think, possess the highest merit. An Apollo is beautiful; a group of a fighting Amazon, and her enemies trampled under her horse's feet, is very impressive; a Faun, copied from that of Praxiteles, and another, who seems to be dancing, were exceedingly pleasant to look at. I like these strange, sweet, playful, rustic creatures, . . . . linked so prettily, without monstrosity, to the lower tribes. . . . . Their character has never, that I know of, been wrought out in literature; and something quite good, funny, and philosophical, as well as poetic, might very likely be educed from them. . . . . The faun is a natural and delightful link betwixt human and brute life, with something of a divine character intermingled.
The gallery, as it is called, on the basement floor of the
casino, is sixty feet in length, by perhaps a third as much in breadth, and is
(after all I have seen at the Colonna Palace and elsewhere) a more magnificent
hall than I imagined to be in existence.
It is floored with rich marble in beautifully arranged compartments, and
the walls are almost entirely eased with marble of various sorts, the
prevailing kind being giallo antico, intermixed with verd antique, and I know
not what else; but the splendor of the giallo antico gives the character to the
room, and the large and deep niches along the walls appear to be lined with the
same material. Without coming to
This hall, moreover, is adorned with pillars of Oriental alabaster, and wherever is a space vacant of precious and richly colored marble it is frescoed with arabesque ornaments; and over the whole is a coved and vaulted ceiling, glowing with picture. There never can be anything richer than the whole effect. As to the sculpture here it was not very fine, so far as I can remember, consisting chiefly of busts of the emperors in porphyry; but they served a good purpose in the upholstery way. There were also magnificent tables, each composed of one great slab of porphyry; and also vases of nero antico, and other rarest substance. It remains to be mentioned that, on this almost summer day, I was quite chilled in passing through these glorious halls; no fireplace anywhere; no possibility of comfort; and in the hot season, when their coolness might be agreeable, it would be death to inhabit them.
Ascending a long winding staircase, we arrived at another suite of rooms, containing a good many not very remarkable pictures, and a few more pieces of statuary. Among the latter, is Canova's statue of Pauline, the sister of Bonaparte, who is represented with but little drapery, and in the character of Venus holding the apple in her hand. It is admirably done, and, I have no doubt, a perfect likeness; very beautiful too; but it is wonderful to see how the artificial elegance of the woman of this world makes itself perceptible in spite of whatever simplicity she could find in almost utter nakedness. The statue does not afford pleasure in the contemplation.
In one of these upper rooms are some works of Bernini; two of them, Aeneas and Anchises, and David on the point of slinging a stone at Goliath, have great merit, and do not tear and rend themselves quite out of the laws and limits of marble, like his later sculpture. Here is also his Apollo overtaking Daphne, whose feet take root, whose, finger-tips sprout into twigs, and whose tender body roughens round about with bark, as he embraces her. It did not seem very wonderful to me; not so good as Hillard's description of it made me expect; and one does not enjoy these freaks in marble.
We were glad to emerge from the casino into the warm sunshine; and, for my part, I made the best of my way to a large fountain, surrounded by a circular stone seat of wide sweep, and sat down in a sunny segment of the circle. Around grew a solemn company of old trees,--ilexes, I believe,--with huge, contorted trunks and evergreen branches, . . . . deep groves, sunny openings, the airy gush of fountains, marble statues, dimly visible in recesses of foliage, great urns and vases, terminal figures, temples, --all these works of art looking as if they had stood there long enough to feel at home, and to be on friendly and familiar terms with the grass and trees. It is a most beautiful place, . . . . and the Malaria is its true master and inhabitant!
April 22d.--We have been recently to the studio of Mr. Brown [now dead], the American landscape-painter, and were altogether surprised and delighted with his pictures. He is a plain, homely Yankee, quite unpolished by his many years' residence in Italy; he talks ungrammatically, and in Yankee idioms; walks with a strange, awkward gait and stooping shoulders; is altogether unpicturesque; but wins one's confidence by his very lack of grace. It is not often that we see an artist so entirely free from affectation in his aspect and deportment. His pictures were views of Swiss and Italian scenery, and were most beautiful and true. One of them, a moonlight picture, was really magical,-- the moon shining so brightly that it seemed to throw a light even beyond the limits of the picture,--and yet his sunrises and sunsets, and noontides too, were nowise inferior to this, although their excellence required somewhat longer study, to be fully appreciated. I seemed to receive more pleasure front Mr. Brown's pictures than from any of the landscapes by the old masters; and the fact serves to strengthen me in the belief that the most delicate if not the highest charm of a picture is evanescent, and that we continue to admire pictures prescriptively and by tradition, after the qualities that first won them their fame have vanished. I suppose Claude was a greater landscape-painter than Brown; but for my own pleasure I would prefer one of the latter artist's pictures,--those of the former being quite changed from what he intended them to be by the effect of time on his pigments. Mr. Brown showed us some drawings from nature, done with incredible care and minuteness of detail, as studies for his paintings. We complimented him on his patience; but he said, "O, it's not patience,--it's love!" In fact, it was a patient and most successful wooing of a beloved object, which at last rewarded him by yielding itself wholly.
We have likewise been to Mr. B------'s [now dead] studio, where we saw several pretty statues and busts, and among them an Eve, with her wreath of fig-leaves lying across her poor nudity; comely in some points, but with a frightful volume of thighs and calves. I do not altogether see the necessity of ever sculpturing another nakedness. Man is no longer a naked animal; his clothes are as natural to him as his skin, and sculptors have no more right to undress him than to flay him.
Also, we have seen again William Story's Cleopatra,--a work of genuine thought and energy, representing a terribly dangerous woman; quiet enough for the moment, but very likely to spring upon you like a tigress. It is delightful to escape to his creations from this universal prettiness, which seems to be the highest conception of the crowd of modern sculptors, and which they almost invariably attain.
Miss Bremer called on us the other day. We find her very little changed from what she
was when she came to take tea and spend an evening at our little red cottage,
among the Berkshire hills, and went away so dissatisfied with my conversational
performances, and so laudatory of my brow and eyes, while so severely
criticising my poor mouth and chin. She
is the funniest little old fairy in person whom one can imagine, with a huge
nose, to which all the rest of her is but an insufficient appendage; but you
feel at once that she is most gentle, kind, womanly, sympathetic, and true. She talks English fluently, in a low quiet
voice, but with such an accent that it is impossible to understand her without
the closest attention. This was the real
cause of the failure of our
To-day my wife and I have been at the picture and sculpture galleries of the Capitol. I rather enjoyed looking at several of the pictures, though at this moment I particularly remember only a very beautiful face of a man, one of two heads on the same canvas by Vandyke. Yes; I did look with new admiration at Paul Veronese's "Rape of Europa." It must have been, in its day, the most brilliant and rejoicing picture, the most voluptuous, the most exuberant, that ever put the sunshine to shame. The bull has all Jupiter in him, so tender and gentle, yet so passionate, that you feel it indecorous to look at him; and Europa, under her thick rich stuffs and embroideries, is all a woman. What a pity that such a picture should fade, and perplex the beholder with such splendor shining through such forlornness!
We afterwards went into the sculpture-gallery, where I looked at the Faun of Praxiteles, and was sensible of a peculiar charm in it; a sylvan beauty and homeliness, friendly and wild at once. The lengthened, but not preposterous ears, and the little tail, which we infer, have an exquisite effect, and make the spectator smile in his very heart. This race of fauns was the most delightful of all that antiquity imagined. It seems to me that a story, with all sorts of fun and pathos in it, might be contrived on the idea of their species having become intermingled with the human race; a family with the faun blood in them, having prolonged itself from the classic era till our own days. The tail might have disappeared, by dint of constant intermarriages with ordinary mortals; but the pretty hairy ears should occasionally reappear in members of the family; and the moral instincts and intellectual characteristics of the faun might be most picturesquely brought out, without detriment to the human interest of the story. Fancy this combination in the person of a young lady!
I have spoken of Mr. Gibson's colored statues. It seems (at least Mr. Nichols tells me) that
he stains them with tobacco juice. . . . . Were he to send a Cupid to
April 25th.--Night before last, my wife and I took a moonlight ramble through Rome, it being a very beautiful night, warm enough for comfort, and with no perceptible dew or dampness. We set out at about nine o'clock, and, our general direction being towards the Coliseum, we soon came to the Fountain of Trevi, full on the front of which the moonlight fell, making Bernini's sculptures look stately and beautiful, though the semicircular gush and fall of the cascade, and the many jets of the water, pouring and bubbling into the great marble basin, are of far more account than Neptune and his steeds, and the rest of the figures. . . . .
We ascended the Capitoline Hill, and I felt a satisfaction in placing my hand on those immense blocks of stone, the remains of the ancient Capitol, which form the foundation of the present edifice, and will make a sure basis for as many edifices as posterity may choose to rear upon it, till the end of the world. It is wonderful, the solidity with which those old Romans built; one would suppose they contemplated the whole course of Time as the only limit of their individual life. This is not so strange in the days of the Republic, when, probably, they believed in the permanence of their institutions; but they still seemed to build for eternity, in the reigns of the emperors, when neither rulers nor people had any faith or moral substance, or laid any earnest grasp on life.
Reaching the top of the Capitoline Hill, we ascended the steps of the portal of the Palace of the Senator, and looked down into the piazza, with the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the centre of it. The architecture that surrounds the piazza is very ineffective; and so, in my opinion, are all the other architectural works of Michael Angelo, including St. Peter's itself, of which he has made as little as could possibly be made of such a vast pile of material. He balances everything in such a way that it seems but half of itself.
We soon descended into the piazza, and walked round and
round the statue of Marcus Aurelius, contemplating it from every point and
admiring it in all. . . . . On these beautiful moonlight nights,
Yesterday, we set out betimes, and ascended the dome of St.
Peter's. The best view of the interior
of the church, I think, is from the first gallery beneath the dome. The whole inside of the dome is set with
mosaic-work, the separate pieces being, so far as I could see, about half an
inch square. Emerging on the roof, we
had a fine view of all the surrounding
Before leaving the church we went to look at the mosaic copy
of the "Transfiguration," because we were going to see the original
We next ascended an amazing height of staircases, and walked
along I know not what extent of passages, . . . . till we reached the picture-gallery of the
The "Transfiguration" is finished with great minuteness and detail, the weeds and blades of grass in the foreground being as distinct as if they were growing in a natural soil. A partly decayed stick of wood with the bark is likewise given in close imitation of nature. The reflection of a foot of one of the apostles is seen in a pool of water at the verge of the picture. One or two heads and arms seem almost to project from the canvas. There is great lifelikeness and reality, as well as higher qualities. The face of Jesus, being so high aloft and so small in the distance, I could not well see; but I am impressed with the idea that it looks too much like human flesh and blood to be in keeping with the celestial aspect of the figure, or with the probabilities of the scene, when the divinity and immortality of the Saviour beamed from within him through the earthly features that ordinarily shaded him. As regards the composition of the picture, I am not convinced of the propriety of its being in two so distinctly separate parts,--the upper portion not thinking of the lower, and the lower portion not being aware of the higher. It symbolizes, however, the spiritual short-sightedness of mankind that, amid the trouble and grief of the lower picture, not a single individual, either of those who seek help or those who would willingly afford it, lifts his eyes to that region, one glimpse of which would set everything right. One or two of the disciples point upward, but without really knowing what abundance of help is to be had there.
April 27th.--To-day we have all been with Mr. Akers to some
studios of painters; first to that of Mr. Wilde, an artist originally from
Boston. His pictures are principally of scenes from
We next went to the studio of an elderly Swiss artist, named
Mueller, I believe, where we looked at a great many water-color and crayon
drawings of scenes in
Contiguous to Mr. Mueller's studio was that of a young German artist, not long resident in Rome, and Mr. Akers proposed that we should go in there, as a matter of kindness to the young man, who is scarcely known at all, and seldom has a visitor to look at his pictures. His studio comprised his whole establishment; for there was his little bed, with its white drapery, in a corner of the small room, and his dressing-table, with its brushes and combs, while the easel and the few sketches of Italian scenes and figures occupied the foreground. I did not like his pictures very well, but would gladly have bought them all if I could have afforded it, the artist looked so cheerful, patient, and quiet, doubtless amidst huge discouragement. He is probably stubborn of purpose, and is the sort of man who will improve with every year of his life. We could not speak his language, and were therefore spared the difficulty of paying him any compliments; but Miss Shepard said a few kind words to him in German. and seemed quite to win his heart, insomuch that he followed her with bows and smiles a long way down the staircase. It is a terrible business, this looking at pictures, whether good or bad, in the presence of the artists who paint them; it is as great a bore as to hear a poet read his own verses. It takes away all my pleasure in seeing the pictures, and even remakes me question the genuineness of the impressions which I receive from them.
After this latter visit Mr. Akers conducted us to the shop of the jeweller Castellani, who is a great reproducer of ornaments in the old Roman and Etruscan fashion. These antique styles are very fashionable just now, and some of the specimens he showed us were certainly very beautiful, though I doubt whether their quaintness and old-time curiousness, as patterns of gewgaws dug out of immemorial tombs, be not their greatest charm. We saw the toilet-case of an Etruscan lady,--that is to say, a modern imitation of it,--with her rings for summer and winter, and for every day of the week, and for thumb and fingers; her ivory comb; her bracelets; and more knick-knacks than I can half remember. Splendid things of our own time were likewise shown us; a necklace of diamonds worth eighteen thousand scudi, together with emeralds and opals and great pearls. Finally we came away, and my wife and Miss Shepard were taken up by the Misses Weston, who drove with them to visit the Villa Albani. During their drive my wife happened to raise her arm, and Miss Shepard espied a little Greek cross of gold which had attached itself to the lace of her sleeve. . . . . Pray heaven the jeweller may not discover his loss before we have time to restore the spoil! He is apparently so free and careless in displaying his precious wares,--putting inestimable genes and brooches great and small into the hands of strangers like ourselves, and leaving scores of them strewn on the top of his counter,--that it would seem easy enough to take a diamond or two; but I suspect there must needs be a sharp eye somewhere. Before we left the shop he requested me to honor him with my autograph in a large book that was full of the names of his visitors. This is probably a measure of precaution.
April 30th.--I went yesterday to the sculpture-gallery of the Capitol, and looked pretty thoroughly through the busts of the illustrious men, and less particularly at those of the emperors and their relatives. I likewise took particular note of the Faun of Praxiteles, because the idea keeps recurring to me of writing a little romance about it, and for that reason I shall endeavor to set down a somewhat minutely itemized detail of the statue and its surroundings. . . . .
We have had beautiful weather for two or three days, very warm in the sun, yet always freshened by the gentle life of a breeze, and quite cool enough the moment you pass within the limit of the shade. . . . .
In the morning there are few people there (on the Pincian) except the gardeners, lazily trimming the borders, or filling their watering-pots out of the marble-brimmed basin of the fountain; French soldiers, in their long mixed-blue surtouts, and wide scarlet pantaloons, chatting with here and there a nursery-maid and playing with the child in her care; and perhaps a few smokers, . . . . choosing each a marble seat or wooden bench in sunshine or shade as best suits him. In the afternoon, especially within an hour or two of sunset, the gardens are much more populous, and the seats, except when the sun falls full upon them, are hard to come by. Ladies arrive in carriages, splendidly dressed; children are abundant, much impeded in their frolics, and rendered stiff and stately by the finery which they wear; English gentlemen and Americans with their wives and families; the flower of the Roman population, too, both male and female, mostly dressed with great nicety; but a large intermixture of artists, shabbily picturesque; and other persons, not of the first stamp. A French band, comprising a great many brass instruments, by and by begins to play; and what with music, sunshine, a delightful atmosphere, flowers, grass, well-kept pathways, bordered with box-hedges, pines, cypresses, horse-chestnuts, flowering shrubs, and all manner of cultivated beauty, the scene is a very lively and agreeable one. The fine equipages that drive round and round through the carriage-paths are another noticeable item. The Roman aristocracy are magnificent in their aspect, driving abroad with beautiful horses, and footmen in rich liveries, sometimes as many as three behind and one sitting by the coachman.
May 1st.--This morning, I wandered for the thousandth time
through some of the narrow intricacies of
I now found my way to the Piazza Navona. It is to me the most interesting piazza in
On one side of the piazza is the
In the Pantheon (to-day) it was pleasant looking up to the circular opening, to see the clouds flitting across it, sometimes covering it quite over, then permitting a glimpse of sky, then showing all the circle of sunny blue. Then would come the ragged edge of a cloud, brightened throughout with sunshine, passing and changing quickly,--not that the divine smile was not always the same, but continually variable through the medium of earthly influences. The great slanting beam of sunshine was visible all the way down to the pavement, falling upon motes of dust, or a thin smoke of incense imperceptible in the shadow. Insects were playing to and fro in the beam, high up toward the opening. There is a wonderful charm in the naturalness of all this, and one might fancy a swarm of cherubs coming down through the opening and sporting in the broad ray, to gladden the faith of worshippers on the pavement beneath; or angels bearing prayers upward, or bringing down responses to them, visible with dim brightness as they pass through the pathway of heaven's radiance, even the many hues of their wings discernible by a trusting eye; though, as they pass into the shadow, they vanish like the motes. So the sunbeam would represent those rays of divine intelligence which enable us to see wonders and to know that they are natural things.
Consider the effect of light and shade in a church where the windows are open and darkened with curtains that are occasionally lifted by a breeze, letting in the sunshine, which whitens a carved tombstone on the pavement of the church, disclosing, perhaps, the letters of the name and inscription, a death's-head, a crosier, or other emblem; then the curtain falls and the bright spot vanishes.
May 8th.--This morning my wife and I went to breakfast with
Mrs. William Story at the
Taking leave of Mrs. Jameson, we drove through the city, and out of the Lateran Gate; first, however, waiting a long while at Monaldini's bookstore in the Piazza de' Spagna for Mr. Story, whom we finally took up in the street, after losing nearly an hour.
Just two miles beyond the gate is a space on the green campagna where, for some time past, excavations have been in progress, which thus far have resulted in the discovery of several tombs, and the old, buried, and almost forgotten church or basilica of San Stefano. It is a beautiful spot, that of the excavations, with the Alban hills in the distance, and some heavy, sunlighted clouds hanging above, or recumbent at length upon them, and behind the city and its mighty dome. The excavations are an object of great interest both to the Romans and to strangers, and there were many carriages and a great many visitors viewing the progress of the works, which are carried forward with greater energy than anything else I have seen attempted at Rome. A short time ago the ground in the vicinity was a green surface, level, except here and there a little hillock, or scarcely perceptible swell; the tomb of Cecilia Metella showing itself a mile or two distant, and other rugged ruins of great tombs rising on the plain. Now the whole site of the basilica is uncovered, and they have dug into the depths of several tombs, bringing to light precious marbles, pillars, a statue, and elaborately wrought sarcophagi; and if they were to dig into almost every other inequality that frets the surface of the campagna, I suppose the result might be the same. You cannot dig six feet downward anywhere into the soil, deep enough to hollow out a grave, without finding some precious relic of the past; only they lose somewhat of their value when you think that you can almost spurn them out of the ground with your foot. It is a very wonderful arrangement of Providence that these things should have been preserved for a long series of coming generations by that accumulation of dust and soil and grass and trees and houses over them, which will keep them safe, and cause their reappearance above ground to be gradual, so that the rest of the world's lifetime may have for one of its enjoyments the uncovering of old Rome.
The tombs were accessible by long flights of steps going steeply downward, and they were thronged with so many visitors that we had to wait some little time for our own turn. In the first into which we descended we found two tombs side by side, with only a partition wall between; the outer tomb being, as is supposed, a burial-place constructed by the early Christians, while the adjoined and minor one was a work of pagan Rome about the second century after Christ. The former was much less interesting than the latter. It contained some large sarcophagi, with sculpture upon them of rather heathenish aspect; and in the centre of the front of each sarcophagus was a bust in bas-relief, the features of which had never been wrought, but were left almost blank, with only the faintest indications of a nose, for instance. It is supposed that sarcophagi were kept on hand by the sculptors, and were bought ready made, and that it was customary to work out the portrait of the deceased upon the blank face in the centre; but when there was a necessity for sudden burial, as may have been the case in the present instance, this was dispensed with.
The inner tomb was found without any earth in it, just as it had been left when the last old Roman was buried there; and it being only a week or two since it was opened, there was very little intervention of persons, though much of time, between the departure of the friends of the dead and our own visit. It is a square room, with a mosaic pavement, and is six or seven paces in length and breadth, and as much in height to the vaulted roof. The roof and upper walls are beautifully ornamented with frescos, which were very bright when first discovered, but have rapidly faded since the admission of the air, though the graceful and joyous designs, flowers and fruits and trees, are still perfectly discernible. The room must have been anything but sad and funereal; on the contrary, as cheerful a saloon, and as brilliant, if lighted up, as one could desire to feast in. It contained several marble sarcophagi, covering indeed almost the whole floor, and each of them as much as three or four feet in length, and two much longer. The longer ones I did not particularly examine, and they seemed comparatively plainer; but the smaller sarcophagi were covered with the most delicately wrought and beautiful bas-reliefs that I ever beheld; a throng of glad and lovely shapes in marble clustering thickly and chasing one another round the sides of these old stone coffins. The work was as perfect as when the sculptor gave it his last touch; and if he had wrought it to be placed in a frequented hall, to be seen and admired by continual crowds as long as the marble should endure, he could not have chiselled with better skill and care, though his work was to be shut up in the depths of a tomb forever. This seems to me the strangest thing in the world, the most alien from modern sympathies. If they had built their tombs above ground, one could understand the arrangement better; but no sooner had they adorned them so richly, and furnished them with such exquisite productions of art, than they annihilated them with darkness. It was an attempt, no doubt, to render the physical aspect of death cheerful, but there was no good sense in it.
We went down also into another tomb close by, the walls of which were ornamented with medallions in stucco. These works presented a numerous series of graceful designs, wrought by the hand in the short space of (Mr. Story said it could not have been more than) five or ten minutes, while the wet plaster remained capable of being moulded; and it was marvellous to think of the fertility of the artist's fancy, and the rapidity and accuracy with which he must have given substantial existence to his ideas. These too--all of them such adornments as would have suited a festal hall--were made to be buried forthwith in eternal darkness. I saw and handled in this tomb a great thigh-bone, and measured it with my own; it was one of many such relics of the guests who were laid to sleep in these rich chambers. The sarcophagi that served them for coffins could not now be put to a more appropriate use than as wine-coolers in a modern dining-room; and it would heighten the enjoyment of a festival to look at them.
We would gladly have stayed much longer; but it was drawing towards sunset, and the evening, though bright, was unusually cool, so we drove home; and on the way, Mr. Story told us of the horrible practices of the modern Romans with their dead,--how they place them in the church, where, at midnight, they are stripped of their last rag of funeral attire, put into the rudest wooden coffins, and thrown into a trench,--a half-mile, for instance, of promiscuous corpses. This is the fate of all, except those whose friends choose to pay an exorbitant sum to have them buried under the pavement of a church. The Italians have an excessive dread of corpses, and never meddle with those of their nearest and dearest relatives. They have a horror of death, too, especially of sudden death, and most particularly of apoplexy; and no wonder, as it gives no time for the last rites of the Church, and so exposes them to a fearful risk of perdition forever. On the whole, the ancient practice was, perhaps, the preferable one; but Nature has made it very difficult for us to do anything pleasant and satisfactory with a dead body. God knows best; but I wish he had so ordered it that our mortal bodies, when we have done with them, might vanish out of sight and sense, like bubbles. A person of delicacy hates to think of leaving such a burden as his decaying mortality to the disposal of his friends; but, I say again, how delightful it would be, and how helpful towards our faith in a blessed futurity, if the dying could disappear like vanishing bubbles, leaving, perhaps, a sweet fragrance diffused for a minute or two throughout the death-chamber. This would be the odor of sanctity! And if sometimes the evaporation of a sinful soul should leave an odor not so delightful, a breeze through the open windows would soon waft it quite away.
Apropos of the various methods of disposing of dead bodies, William Story recalled a newspaper paragraph respecting a ring, with a stone of a new species in it, which a widower was observed to wear upon his finger. Being questioned as to what the gem was, he answered, "It is my wife." He had procured her body to be chemically resolved into this stone. I think I could make a story on this idea: the ring should be one of the widower's bridal gifts to a second wife; and, of course, it should have wondrous and terrible qualities, symbolizing all that disturbs the quiet of a second marriage,--on the husband's part, remorse for his inconstancy, and the constant comparison between the dead wife of his youth, now idealized, and the grosser reality which he had now adopted into her place; while on the new wife's finger it should give pressures, shooting pangs into her heart, jealousies of the past, and all such miserable emotions.
By the by, the tombs which we looked at and entered may have been originally above ground, like that of Cecilia Metella, and a hundred others along the Appian Way; though, even in this case, the beautiful chambers must have been shut up in darkness. Had there been windows, letting in the light upon the rich frescos and exquisite sculptures, there would have been a satisfaction in thinking of the existence of so much visual beauty, though no eye had the privilege to see it. But darkness, to objects of sight, is annihilation, as long as the darkness lasts.
May 9th.--Mrs. Jameson called this
forenoon to ask us to go and see her this evening; . . . . so
that I had to receive her alone, devolving part of the burden on Miss Shepard
and the three children, all of whom I introduced to her notice. Finding that I had not been farther beyond
the walls of
At half past four, according to appointment, I arrived at
her lodgings, and had not long to wait before her little one-horse carriage
drove up to the door, and we set out, rumbling along the Via Scrofa, and
through the densest part of the city, past the theatre of Marcellus, and thence
along beneath the Palatine Hill, and by the Baths of Caracalla, through the
gate of San Sebastiano. After emerging
from the gate, we soon came to the little Church of "Domine, quo
vadis?" Standing on the spot where
St. Peter is said to have seen a vision of our Saviour bearing his cross, Mrs.
Jameson proposed to alight; and, going in, we saw a cast from Michael Angelo's
statue of the Saviour; and not far from the threshold of the church, yet
perhaps in the centre of the edifice, which is extremely small, a circular
stone is placed, a little raised above the pavement, and surrounded by a low
wooden railing. Pointing to this stone,
Mrs. Jameson showed me the prints of two feet side by side, impressed into its
surface, as if a person had stopped short while pursuing his way to
Hence we drove on a little way farther, and came to the Basilica of San Sebastiano, where also we alighted, and, leaning on my arm, Mrs. Jameson went in. It is a stately and noble interior, with a spacious unencumbered nave, and a flat ceiling frescoed and gilded. In a chapel at the left of the entrance is the tomb of St. Sebastian,--a sarcophagus containing his remains, raised on high before the altar, and beneath it a recumbent statue of the saint pierced with gilded arrows. The sculpture is of the school of Bernini,--done after the design of Bernini himself, Mrs. Jameson said, and is more agreeable and in better taste than most of his works. We walked round the basilica, glancing at the pictures in the various chapels, none of which seemed to be of remarkable merit, although Mrs. Jameson pronounced rather a favorable verdict on one of St. Francis. She says that she can read a picture like the page of a book; in fact, without perhaps assuming more taste and judgment than really belong to her, it was impossible not to perceive that she gave her companion no credit for knowing one single simplest thing about art. Nor, on the whole, do I think she underrated me; the only mystery is, how she came to be so well aware of my ignorance on artistical points.
In the basilica the Franciscan monks were arranging benches
on the floor of the nave, and some peasant children and grown people besides
were assembling, probably to undergo an examination in the catechism,
and we hastened to depart, lest our presence should interfere with their
arrangements. At the door a monk met us,
and asked for a contribution in aid of his church, or some other religious
purpose. Boys, as we drove on, ran
stoutly along by the side of the chaise, begging as often as they could find
breath, but were constrained finally to give up the pursuit. The great ragged
bulks of the tombs along the
The day had been cloudy, chill, and windy, but was now grown
calmer and more genial, and brightened by a very pleasant sunshine, though
great dark clouds were still lumbering up the sky. We drove homeward, looking at the distant
dome of St. Peter's and talking of many things,--painting, sculpture,
It was long past the hour of Mrs. Jameson's dinner engagement when we drove up to her door in the Via Ripetta. I bade her farewell with much good-feeling on my own side, and, I hope, on hers, excusing myself, however, from keeping the previous engagement to spend the evening with her, for, in point of fact, we had mutually had enough of one another for the time being. I am glad to record that she expressed a very favorable opinion of our friend Mr. Thompson's pictures.
May 12th.--To-day we have been to the Villa Albani, to which
we had a ticket of admission through the agency of Mr. Cass (the American
Minister). We set out between ten and eleven
o'clock, and walked through the Via Felice, the Piazza Barberini, and a long,
heavy, dusty range of streets beyond, to the Porta Salara, whence the road
extends, white and sunny, between two high blank walls to the gate of the
villa, which is at no great distance. We
were admitted by a girl, and went first to the casino, along an aisle of
overshadowing trees, the branches of which met above our heads. In the portico of the casino, which extends
along its whole front, there are many busts and statues, and, among them, one
of Julius Caesar, representing him at an earlier period of life than others
which I have seen. His aspect is not
particularly impressive; there is a lack of chin, though not so much as in the
older statues and busts. Within the edifice there is a large hall, not so
brilliant, perhaps, with frescos and gilding as those at the Villa Borghese,
but lined with the most beautiful variety of marbles. But, in fact, each new splendor of this sort
outshines the last, and unless we could pass from one to another all in the
same suite, we cannot remember them well enough to compare the Borghese with
the Albani, the effect being more on the fancy than on the intellect. I do not recall any of the sculpture, except
a colossal bas-relief of Antinous, crowned with flowers, and holding flowers in
his hand, which was found in the ruins of Hadrian's Villa. This is said to be
the finest relic of antiquity next to the Apollo and the Laocoon; but I could
not feel it to be so, partly, I suppose, because the features of Autinous do
not seem to me beautiful in themselves; and that heavy, downward look is
repeated till I am more weary of it than of anything else in sculpture. We went up stairs and down stairs, and saw a
good many beautiful things, but none, perhaps, of the very best and
beautifullest; and second-rate statues, with the corroded surface of old marble
that has been dozens of centuries under the ground, depress the spirits of the
beholder. The bas-relief of Antinous has
at least the merit of being almost as white and fresh, and quite as smooth, as
if it had never been buried and dug up again.
The real treasures of this villa, to the number of nearly three hundred,
were removed to
There are some pictures in one or two of the rooms, and among them I recollect one by Perugino, in which is a St. Michael, very devout and very beautiful; indeed, the whole picture (which is in compartments, representing the three principal points of the Saviour's history) impresses the beholder as being painted devoutly and earnestly by a religious man. In one of the rooms there is a small bronze Apollo, supposed by Winckelmann to be an original of Praxiteles; but I could not make myself in the least sensible of its merit.
The rest of the things in the casino I shall pass over, as
also those in the coffee-house,--an edifice which stands a hundred yards or
more from the casino, with an ornamental garden, laid out in walks and
flower-plats between. The coffee-house
has a semicircular sweep of porch with a good many statues and busts beneath
it, chiefly of distinguished Romans. In
this building, as in the casino, there are curious mosaics, large vases of rare
marble, and many other things worth long pauses of admiration; but I think that
we were all happier when we had done with the works of art, and were at leisure
to ramble about the grounds. The Villa
Albani itself is an edifice separate from both the coffee-house and casino, and
is not opened to strangers. It rises,
palace-like, in the midst of the garden, and, it is to be hoped, has some
possibility of comfort amidst its splendors.--Comfort, however, would be thrown
away upon it; for besides that the site shares the curse that has fallen upon
every pleasant place in the vicinity of Rome, . . . . it
really has no occupant except the servants who take care of it. The Count of Castelbarco, its present
proprietor, resides at
At the Capitol there is a sarcophagus with a most beautiful bas-relief of the discovery of Achilles by Ulysses, in which there is even an expression of mirth on the faces of many of the spectators. And to-day at the Albani a sarcophagus was ornamented with the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis.
Death strides behind every man, to be sure, at more or less distance, and, sooner or later, enters upon any event of his life; so that, in this point of view, they might each and all serve for bas-reliefs on a sarcophagus; but the Romans seem to have treated Death as lightly and playfully as they could, and tried to cover his dart with flowers, because they hated it so much.
May 15th.--My wife and I went yesterday to the Sistine Chapel, it being my first visit. It is a room of noble proportions, lofty and long, though divided in the midst by a screen or partition of white marble, which rises high enough to break the effect of spacious unity. There are six arched windows on each side of the chapel, throwing down their light from the height of the walls, with as much as twenty feet of space (more I should think) between them and the floor. The entire walls and ceiling of this stately chapel are covered with paintings in fresco, except the space about ten feet in height from the floor, and that portion was intended to be adorned by tapestries from pictures by Raphael, but, the design being prevented by his premature death, the projected tapestries have no better substitute than paper-hangings. The roof, which is flat at top, and coved or vaulted at the sides, is painted in compartments by Michael Angelo, with frescos representing the whole progress of the world and of mankind from its first formation by the Almighty . . . . till after the flood. On one of the sides of the chapel are pictures by Perugino, and other old masters, of subsequent events in sacred history; and the entire wall behind the altar, a vast expanse from the ceiling to the floor, is taken up with Michael Angelo's summing up of the world's history and destinies in his "Last Judgment."
There can be no doubt that while these frescos continued in their perfection, there was nothing else to be compared with the magnificent and solemn beauty of this chapel. Enough of ruined splendor still remains to convince the spectator of all that has departed; but methinks I have seen hardly anything else so forlorn and depressing as it is now, all dusky and dim, even the very lights having passed into shadows, and the shadows into utter blackness; so that it needs a sunshiny day, under the bright Italian heavens, to make the designs perceptible at all. As we sat in the chapel there were clouds flitting across the sky; when the clouds came the pictures vanished; when the sunshine broke forth the figures sadly glimmered into something like visibility,--the Almighty moving in chaos,--the noble shape of Adam, the beautiful Eve; and, beneath where the roof curves, the mighty figures of sibyls and prophets, looking as if they were necessarily so gigantic because the thought within them was so massive. In the "Last Judgment" the scene of the greater part of the picture lies in the upper sky, the blue of which glows through betwixt the groups of naked figures; and above sits Jesus, not looking in the least like the Saviour of the world, but, with uplifted arm, denouncing eternal misery on those whom he came to save. I fear I am myself among the wicked, for I found myself inevitably taking their part, and asking for at least a little pity, some few regrets, and not such a stern denunciatory spirit on the part of Him who had thought us worth dying for. Around him stand grim saints, and, far beneath, people are getting up sleepily out of their graves, not well knowing what is about to happen; many of them, however, finding themselves clutched by demons before they are half awake. It would be a very terrible picture to one who should really see Jesus, the Saviour, in that inexorable judge; but it seems to me very undesirable that he should ever be represented in that aspect, when it is so essential to our religion to believe him infinitely kinder and better towards us than we deserve. At the last day--I presume, that is, in all future days, when we see ourselves as we are--man's only inexorable judge will be himself, and the punishment of his sins will be the perception of them.
In the lower corner of this great picture, at the right hand of the spectator, is a hideous figure of a damned person, girdled about with a serpent, the folds of which are carefully knotted between his thighs, so as, at all events, to give no offence to decency. This figure represents a man who suggested to Pope Paul III. that the nudities of the "Last Judgment" ought to be draped, for which offence Michael Angelo at once consigned him to hell. It shows what a debtor's prison and dungeon of private torment men would make of hell if they had the control of it. As to the nudities, if they were ever more nude than now, I should suppose, in their fresh brilliancy, they might well have startled a not very squeamish eye. The effect, such as it is, of this picture, is much injured by the high altar and its canopy, which stands close against the wall, and intercepts a considerable portion of the sprawl of nakedness with which Michael Angelo has filled his sky. However, I am not unwilling to believe, with faith beyond what I can actually see, that the greatest pictorial miracles ever yet achieved have been wrought upon the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
In the afternoon I went with Mr. Thompson to see what
bargain could be made with vetturinos for taking myself
and family to
May 21st.--Mamma and I went, yesterday forenoon, to the Spada Palace, which we found among the intricacies of Central Rome; a dark and massive old edifice, built around a court, the fronts giving on which are adorned with statues in niches, and sculptured ornaments. A woman led us up a staircase, and ushered us into a great gloomy hall, square and lofty, and wearing a very gray and ancient aspect, its walls being painted in chiaroscuro, apparently a great many years ago. The hall was lighted by small windows, high upward from the floors, and admitting only a dusky light. The only furniture or ornament, so far as I recollect, was the colossal statue of Pompey, which stands on its pedestal at one side, certainly the sternest and severest of figures, and producing the most awful impression on the spectator. Much of the effect, no doubt, is due to the sombre obscurity of the hall, and to the loneliness in which the great naked statue stands. It is entirely nude, except for a cloak that hangs down from the left shoulder; in the left hand, it holds a globe; the right arm is extended. The whole expression is such as the statue might have assumed, if, during the tumult of Caesar's murder, it had stretched forth its marble hand, and motioned the conspirators to give over the attack, or to be quiet, now that their victim had fallen at its feet. On the left leg, about midway above the ankle, there is a dull, red stain, said to be Caesar's blood; but, of course, it is just such a red stain in the marble as may be seen on the statue of Antinous at the Capitol. I could not see any resemblance in the face of the statue to that of the bust of Pompey, shown as such at the Capitol, in which there is not the slightest moral dignity, or sign of intellectual eminence. I am glad to have seen this statue, and glad to remember it in that gray, dim, lofty hall; glad that there were no bright frescos on the walls, and that the ceiling was wrought with massive beams, and the floor paved with ancient brick.
From this anteroom we passed through several saloons
containing pictures, some of which were by eminent artists; the Judith of
Guido, a copy of which used to weary me to death, year after year, in the
Boston Athenaeum; and many portraits of Cardinals in the Spada family, and
other pictures, by Guido. There were
some portraits, also of the family, by Titian; some good pictures by Guercino;
and many which I should have been glad to examine more at leisure; but, by and
by, the custode made his appearance, and began to close the shutters, under
pretence that the sunshine would injure the paintings,--an effect, I presume,
not very likely to follow after two or three centuries' exposure to light, air,
and whatever else might hurt them.
However, the pictures seemed to be in much better condition, and more
enjoyable, so far as they had merit, than those in most Roman
picture-galleries; although the Spada Palace itself has a decayed and
impoverished aspect, as if the family had dwindled from its former state and
grandeur, and now, perhaps, smuggled itself into some out-of-the-way corner of
the old edifice. If such be the case,
there is something touching in their still keeping possession of Pompey's
statue, which makes their house famous, and the sale of which might give them
the means of building it up anew; for surely it is worth the whole
sculpture-gallery of the
In the afternoon Mr. Thompson and I went, for the third or fourth time, to negotiate with vetturinos. . . . . So far as I know them they are a very tricky set of people, bent on getting as much as they can, by hook or by crook, out of the unfortunate individual who falls into their hands. They begin, as I have said, by asking about twice as much as they ought to receive; and anything between this exorbitant amount and the just price is what they thank heaven for, as so much clear gain. Nevertheless, I am not quite sure that the Italians are worse than other people even in this matter. In other countries it is the custom of persons in trade to take as much as they can get from the public, fleecing one man to exactly the same extent as another; here they take what they can obtain from the individual customer. In fact, Roman tradesmen do not pretend to deny that they ask and receive different prices from different people, taxing them according to their supposed means of payment; the article supplied being the same in one case as in another. A shopkeeper looked into his books to see if we were of the class who paid two pauls, or only a paul and a half for candles; a charcoal-dealer said that seventy baiocchi was a very reasonable sum for us to pay for charcoal, and that some persons paid eighty; and Mr. Thompson, recognizing the rule, told the old vetturino that "a hundred and fifty scudi was a very proper charge for carrying a prince to Florence, but not for carrying me, who was merely a very good artist." The result is well enough; the rich man lives expensively, and pays a larger share of the profits which people of a different system of trade-morality would take equally from the poor man. The effect on the conscience of the vetturino, however, and of tradesmen of all kinds, cannot be good; their only intent being, not to do justice between man and man, but to go as deep as they can into all pockets, and to the very bottom of some.
We had nearly concluded a bargain, a day or two ago, with a vetturino to take or send us to Florence, via Perugia, in eight days, for a hundred scudi; but he now drew back, under pretence of having misunderstood the terms, though, in reality, no doubt, he was in hopes of getting a better bargain from somebody else. We made an agreement with another man, whom Mr. Thompson knows and highly recommends, and immediately made it sure and legally binding by exchanging a formal written contract, in which everything is set down, even to milk, butter, bread, eggs, and coffee, which we are to have for breakfast; the vetturino being to pay every expense for himself, his horses, and his passengers, and include it within ninety-five scudi, and five crowns in addition for buon-mano. . . . . .
May 22d.--Yesterday, while we were at dinner, Mr. ------
called. I never saw him but once before,
and that was at the door of our little red cottage in Lenox; he sitting in a
wagon with one or two of the Sedgewicks, merely exchanging a greeting with me
from under the brim of his straw hat, and driving on. He presented himself now with a long white
beard, such as a palmer might have worn as the growth of his long pilgrimages,
a brow almost entirely bald, and what hair he has quite hoary; a forehead
impending, yet not massive; dark, bushy eyebrows and keen eyes, without much
softness in them; a dark and sallow complexion; a slender figure, bent a little
with age; but at once alert and infirm.
It surprised me to see him so venerable; for, as poets are Apollo's
kinsmen, we are inclined to attribute to them his enviable quality of never
growing old. There was a weary look in
his face, as if he were tired of seeing things and doing things, though with
certainly enough still to see and do, if need were. My family gathered about him, and he
conversed with great readiness and simplicity about his travels, and whatever other
subject came up; telling us that he had been abroad five times, and was now
getting a little home-sick, and had no more eagerness for sights, though his
"gals" (as he called his daughter and another young lady) dragged him
out to see the wonders of Rome again.
His manners and whole aspect are very particularly plain, though not
affectedly so; but it seems as if in the decline of life, and the security of
his position, he had put off whatever artificial polish he may have heretofore
had, and resumed the simpler habits and deportment of his early
S------ was not in the least degree excited about this or any other subject. He uttered neither passion nor poetry, but excellent good sense, and accurate information on whatever subject transpired; a very pleasant man to associate with, but rather cold, I should imagine, if one should seek to touch his heart with one's own. He shook hands kindly all round, but not with any warmth of gripe; although the ease of his deportment had put us all on sociable terms with him.
At seven o'clock we went by invitation to take tea with Miss
Bremer. After much search, and lumbering painfully up two or three staircases
in vain, and at last going about in a strange circuity, we found her in a small
chamber of a large old building, situated a little way from the brow of the
Tarpeian Rock. It was the tiniest and
humblest domicile that I have seen in
Miss Bremer talked plentifully in her strange manner,--good
English enough for a foreigner, but so oddly intonated and accented, that it is
impossible to be sure of more than one word in ten. Being so little comprehensible, it is very
singular how she contrives to make her auditors so perfectly certain, as they
are, that she is talking the best sense, and in the kindliest spirit. There is no better heart than hers, and not
many sounder heads; and a little touch of sentiment comes delightfully in,
mixed up with a quick and delicate humor and the most perfect simplicity. There is also a very pleasant atmosphere of
maidenhood about her; we are sensible of a freshness
and odor of the morning still in this little withered rose,--its recompense for
never having been gathered and worn, but only diffusing fragrance on its stem.
I forget mainly what we talked about,--a good deal about art, of course,
although that is a subject of which Miss Bremer evidently knows nothing. Once
we spoke of fleas,--insects that, in Rome, come home to everybody's business
and bosom, and are so common and inevitable, that no delicacy is felt about
alluding to the sufferings they inflict.
Poor little Miss Bremer was tormented with one while turning out our
tea. . . . . She talked, among other things, of the winters in
By and by, two young ladies came in,--Miss
On the edge of this, before we left the court, Miss Bremer bade us farewell, kissing my wife most affectionately on each cheek, . . . . and then turning towards myself, . . . . she pressed my hand, and we parted, probably never to meet again. God bless her good heart! . . . . She is a most amiable little woman, worthy to be the maiden aunt of the whole human race. I suspect, by the by, that she does not like me half so well as I do her; it is my impression that she thinks me unamiable, or that there is something or other not quite right about me. I am sorry if it be so, because such a good, kindly, clear-sighted, and delicate person is very apt to have reason at the bottom of her harsh thoughts, when, in rare cases, she allows them to harbor with her.
To-day, and for some days past, we have been in quest of lodgings for next winter; a weary search, up interminable staircases, which seduce us upward to no successful result. It is very disheartening not to be able to place the slightest reliance on the integrity of the people we are to deal with; not to believe in any connection between their words and their purposes; to know that they are certainly telling you falsehoods, while you are not in a position to catch hold of the lie, and hold it up in their faces.
This afternoon we called on Mr. and Mrs. ------ at the Hotel de l'Europe, but found only the former at home. We had a pleasant visit, but I made no observations of his character save such as I have already sufficiently recorded; and when we had been with him a little while, Mrs. Chapman, the artist's wife, Mr. Terry, and my friend, Mr. Thompson, came in. ------received them all with the same good degree of cordiality that he did ourselves, not cold, not very warm, not annoyed, not ecstatically delighted; a man, I should suppose, not likely to have ardent individual preferences, though perhaps capable of stern individual dislikes. But I take him, at all events, to be a very upright man, and pursuing a narrow track of integrity; he is a man whom I would never forgive (as I would a thousand other men) for the slightest moral delinquency. I would not be bound to say, however, that he has not the little sin of a fretful and peevish habit; and yet perhaps I am a sinner myself for thinking so.
May 23d.--This morning I breakfasted at William Story's, and met there Mr. Bryant, Mr. T------ (an English gentleman), Mr. and Mrs. Apthorp, Miss Hosmer, and one or two other ladies. Bryant was very quiet, and made no conversation audible to the general table. Mr. T------ talked of English politics and public men; the "Times" and other newspapers, English clubs and social habits generally; topics in which I could well enough bear my part of the discussion. After breakfast, and aside from the ladies, he mentioned an illustration of Lord Ellenborough's lack of administrative ability,--a proposal seriously made by his lordship in reference to the refractory Sepoys. . . . .
We had a very pleasant breakfast, and certainly a breakfast is much preferable to a dinner, not merely in the enjoyment, while it is passing, but afterwards. I made a good suggestion to Miss Hosmer for the design of a fountain,--a lady bursting into tears, water gushing from a thousand pores, in literal translation of the phrase; and to call the statue "Niobe, all Tears." I doubt whether she adopts the idea; but Bernini would have been delighted with it. I should think the gush of water might be so arranged as to form a beautiful drapery about the figure, swaying and fluttering with every breath of wind, and rearranging itself in the calm; in which case, the lady might be said to have "a habit of weeping." . . . . Apart, with William Story, he and I talked of the unluckiness of Friday, etc. I like him particularly well. . . . .
We have been plagued to-day with our preparations for
This evening, U---- and I took a farewell walk in the
When the sun went down, we descended into the Piazza del
Popolo, and thence into the Via Ripetta, and emerged through a gate to the
shore of the
Civita Castellana, May 24th.--We left
We passed through the Porta del
Popolo at about eight o'clock; and after a moment's delay, while the passport
was examined, began our journey along the Flaminian Way, between two such high
and inhospitable walls of brick or stone as seem to shut in all the avenues to
The road in the earlier part of the way was not particularly
picturesque,--the country undulated, but scarcely rose into hills, and was
destitute of trees; there were a few shapeless ruins, too indistinct for us to
make out whether they were Roman or mediaeval.
Nothing struck one so much, in the forenoon, as the spectacle of a
peasant-woman riding on horseback as if she were a man. The houses were few, and those of a dreary
aspect, built of gray stone, and looking bare and desolate, with not the
slightest promise of comfort within doors.
We passed two or three locandas or inns, and finally came to the village
(if village it were, for I remember no houses except
our osteria) of Castel Nuovo di Porta, where we were to take a dejeuner a la
fourchette, which was put upon the table between twelve and one. On this journey, according to the custom of
After lunch, we wandered out into a valley or ravine near the house, where we gathered some flowers, and J----- found a nest with the young birds in it, which, however, he put back into the bush whence he took it.
Our afternoon drive was more picturesque and
noteworthy. Soracte rose before us,
bulging up quite abruptly out of the plain, and keeping itself entirely
distinct from a whole horizon of hills.
Byron well compares it to a wave just on the bend, and about to break
over towards the spectator. As we
approached it nearer and nearer, it looked like the barrenest great rock that
ever protruded out of the substance of the earth, with scarcely a strip or a
spot of verdure upon its steep and gray declivities. The road kept trending towards the mountain,
following the line of the old
The road still grew more and more picturesque, and now lay
along ridges, at the bases of which were deep ravines and hollow valleys. Woods were not wanting; wilder forests than I
have seen since leaving
May 25th.--We were aroused at four o'clock this morning; had
some eggs and coffee, and were ready to start between five and six; being thus
matutinary, in order to get to Terni in time to see the falls. The road was very striking and picturesque;
but I remember nothing particularly, till we came to Borghetto, which stands on
a bluff, with a broad valley sweeping round it, through the midst of which
Sometimes we passed through wildernesses of various trees, each contributing a different hue of verdure to the scene; the vine, also, marrying itself to the fig-tree, so that a man might sit in the shadow of both at once, and temper the luscious sweetness of the one fruit with the fresh flavor of the other. The wayside incidents were such as meeting a man and woman borne along as prisoners, handcuffed and in a cart; two men reclining across one another, asleep, and lazily lifting their heads to gaze at us as we passed by; a woman spinning with a distaff as she walked along the road. An old tomb or tower stood in a lonely field, and several caves were hollowed in the rocks, which might have been either sepulchres or habitations. Soracte kept us company, sometimes a little on one side, sometimes behind, looming up again and again, when we thought that we had done with it, and so becoming rather tedious at last, like a person who presents himself for another and another leave-taking after the one which ought to have been final. Honeysuckles sweetened the hedges along the road.
After leaving Borghetto, we crossed the broad valley of the
Half past eight o'clock.--It has rained in torrents during the afternoon, and we have not seen the cascade of Terni; considerably to my regret, for I think I felt the more interest in seeing it, on account of its being artificial. Methinks nothing was more characteristic of the energy and determination of the old Romans, than thus to take a river, which they wished to be rid of, and fling it over a giddy precipice, breaking it into ten million pieces by the fall. . . . . We are in the Hotel delle tre Colonne, and find it reasonably good, though not, so far as we are concerned, justifying the rapturous commendations of previous tourists, who probably travelled at their own charges. However, there is nothing really to be complained of, either in our accommodations or table, and the only wonder is how Gaetano contrives to get any profit out of our contract, since the hotel bills would alone cost us more than we pay him for the journey and all. It is worth while to record as history of vetturino commissary customs, that for breakfast this morning we had coffee, eggs, and bread and butter; for lunch an omelette, some stewed veal, and a dessert of figs and grapes, besides two decanters of a light-colored acid wine, tasting very like indifferent cider; for dinner, an excellent vermicelli soup, two young fowls, fricasseed, and a hind quarter of roast lamb, with fritters, oranges, and figs, and two more decanters of the wine aforesaid.
This hotel is an edifice with a gloomy front upon a narrow
street, and enterable through an arch, which admits you into an enclosed court;
around the court, on each story, run the galleries, with which the parlors and
sleeping-apartments communicate. The
whole house is dingy, probably old, and seems not very clean; but yet bears
traces of former magnificence; for instance, in our bedroom, the door of which
is ornamented with gilding, and the cornices with frescos, some of which appear
to represent the cascade of Terni, the roof is crossed with carved beams, and
is painted in the interstices; the floor has a carpet, but rough tiles
underneath it, which show themselves at the margin. The windows admit the wind; the door shuts so
loosely as to leave great cracks; and, during the rain to-day, there was a
heavy shower through our ceiling, which made a flood upon the carpet. We see no chambermaids; nothing of the
comfort and neatness of an English hotel, nor of the
smart splendors of an American one; but still this dilapidated palace affords
us a better shelter than I expected to find in the decayed country towns of
After dinner, J----- and I walked out in the dusk to see
what we could of
May 26th.--At six o'clock this morning, we packed ourselves
into our vettura, my wife and I occupying the coupe, and drove out of the city
At Strettura (which, as the name indicates, is a very narrow
part of the valley) we added two oxen to our horses, and began to ascend the
Monte Somma, which, according to
We arrived at Spoleto before noon, and while our dejeuner
was being prepared, looked down from the window of the inn into the narrow
street beneath, which, from the throng of people in it, I judged to be the
principal one: priests, papal soldiers, women with no bonnets on their heads;
peasants in breeches and mushroom hats; maids and matrons, drawing water at a
fountain; idlers, smoking on a bench under the window; a talk, a bustle, but no
genuine activity. After lunch we walked
out to see the lions of Spoleto, and found our way up a steep and narrow street
that led us to the city gate, at which, it is
I am so very tired and sleepy that I mean to mention nothing
else to-night, except the city of
May 27th.--We reached Foligno in good season yesterday afternoon. Our inn seemed ancient; and, under the same roof, on one side of the entrance, was the stable, and on the other the coach-house. The house is built round a narrow court, with a well of water at bottom, and an opening in the roof at top, whence the staircases are lighted that wind round the sides of the court, up to the highest story. Our dining-room and bedrooms were in the latter region, and were all paved with brick, and without carpets; and the characteristic of the whole was all exceeding plainness and antique clumsiness of fitting up. We found ourselves sufficiently comfortable, however; and, as has been the case throughout our journey, had a very fair and well-cooked dinner. It shows, as perhaps I have already remarked, that it is still possible to live well in Italy, at no great expense, and that the high prices charged to the forestieri at Rome and elsewhere are artificial, and ought to be abated. . . . .
The day had darkened since morning, and was now ominous of rain; but as soon as we were established, we sallied out to see whatever was worth looking at. A beggar-boy, with one leg, followed us, without asking for anything, apparently only for the pleasure of our company, though he kept at too great a distance for conversation, and indeed did not attempt to speak.
We went first to the cathedral, which has a Gothic front,
and a modernized interior, stuccoed and whitewashed, looking as neat as a
Our one-legged boy had followed us into the church and stood
near the door till he saw us ready to come out, when he hurried on before us,
and waited a little way off to see whither we should go. We still went on at random, taking the first
turn that offered itself, and soon came to another old church,--that of St.
Mary within the Walls,--into which we entered, and found it whitewashed, like
the other two. This was especially
fortunate, for the doorkeeper informed us that, two years ago, the whole church
(except, I suppose, the roof, which is of timber) had been covered with frescos
by Pinturicchio, all of which had been ruthlessly obliterated, except a very
few fragments. These he proceeded to
show us; poor, dim ghosts of what may once have been beautiful,--now so far
gone towards nothingness that I was hardly sure whether I saw a glimmering of
the design or not. By the by, it was not
Pinturicchio, as I have written above, but Giotto, assisted, I believe, by
Cimabue, who painted these frescos. Our
one-legged attendant had followed us also into this church, and again hastened
out of it before us; and still we heard the dot of his crutch upon the pavement,
as we passed from street to street. By
and by a sickly looking man met us, and begged for "qualche cosa";
but the boy shouted to him, "Niente!" whether intimating that we
would give him nothing, or that he himself had a prior claim to all our charity,
I cannot tell. However, the beggar-man
turned round, and likewise followed our devious course. Once or twice we missed him; but it was only
because he could not walk so fast as we; for he appeared again as we emerged
from the door of another church. Our
one-legged friend we never missed for a moment; he kept pretty near us,--near
enough to be amused by our indecision whither to go; and he seemed much
delighted when it began to rain, and he saw us at a loss how to find our way
back to the hotel. Nevertheless, he did
not offer to guide us; but stumped on behind with a faster or slower dot of his
crutch, according to our pace. I began
to think that he must have been engaged as a spy upon our movements by the police
who had taken away my passport at the city gate. In this way he attended us to the door of the
hotel, where the beggar had already arrived.
The latter again put in his doleful petition; the one-legged boy said not
a word, nor seemed to expect anything, and both had to go away without so much as a mezzo baioccho out of our pockets. The multitude of beggars in
We left Foligno this morning, and, all ready for us at the door of the hotel, as we got into the carriage, were our friends, the beggar-man and the one-legged boy; the latter holding out his ragged hat, and smiling with as confident an air as if he had done us some very particular service, and were certain of being paid for it, as from contract. It was so very funny, so impudent, so utterly absurd, that I could not help giving him a trifle; but the man got nothing,--a fact that gives me a twinge or two, for he looked sickly and miserable. But where everybody begs, everybody, as a general rule, must be denied; and, besides, they act their misery so well that you are never sure of the genuine article.
May 25th.--As I said last night, we left Foligno betimes in the morning, which was bleak, chill, and very threatening, there being very little blue sky anywhere, and the clouds lying heavily on some of the mountain-ridges. The wind blew sharply right in U----'s face and mine, as we occupied the coupe, so that there must have been a great deal of the north in it. We drove through a wide plain--the Umbrian valley, I suppose--and soon passed the old town of Spello, just touching its skirts, and wondering how people, who had this rich and convenient plain from which to choose a site, could think of covering a huge island of rock with their dwellings,--for Spello tumbled its crooked and narrow streets down a steep descent, and cannot well have a yard of even space within its walls. It is said to contain some rare treasures of ancient pictorial art.
I do not remember much that we saw on our route. The plains and the lower hillsides seemed
fruitful of everything that belongs to
From our first start this morning we had seen mists in various quarters, betokening that there was rain in those spots, and now it began to spatter in our own faces, although within the wide extent of our prospect we could see the sunshine falling on portions of the valley. A rainbow, too, shone out, and remained so long visible that it appeared to have made a permanent stain in the sky.
By and by we reached
In the piazza we saw the beautiful front of a
I ought to have said that, instead of driving straight to the old lady's, we alighted at the door of a church near the city gate, and went in to inspect some melancholy frescos, and thence clambered up a narrow street to the cathedral, which has a Gothic front, old enough, but not very impressive. I really remember not a single object that we saw within, but am pretty certain that the interior had been stuccoed and whitewashed. The ecclesiastics of old time did an excellent thing in covering the interiors of their churches with brilliant frescos, thus filling the holy places with saints and angels, and almost with the presence of the Divinity. The modern ecclesiastics do the next best thing in obliterating the wretched remnants of what has had its day and done its office. These frescos might be looked upon as the symbol of the living spirit that made Catholicism a true religion, and glorified it as long as it did live; now the glory and beauty have departed from one and the other.
My wife, U----, and Miss Shepard now set out with a cicerone to visit the great Franciscan convent, in the church of which are preserved some miraculous specimens, in fresco and in oils, of early Italian art; but as I had no mind to suffer any further in this way, I stayed behind with J----- and R-----, who we're equally weary of these things.
After they were gone we took a ramble through the city, but were almost swept away by the violence of the wind, which struggled with me for my hat, and whirled R----- before it like a feather. The people in the public square seemed much diverted at our predicament, being, I suppose, accustomed to these rude blasts in their mountain-home. However, the wind blew in momentary gusts, and then became more placable till another fit of fury came, and passed as suddenly as before. We walked out of the same gate through which we had entered,--an ancient gate, but recently stuccoed and whitewashed, in wretched contrast to the gray, venerable wall through which it affords ingress,--and I stood gazing at the magnificent prospect of the wide valley beneath. It was so vast that there appeared to be all varieties of weather in it at the same instant; fields of sunshine, tracts of storm,--here the coming tempest, there the departing one. It was a picture of the world on a vast canvas, for there was rural life and city life within the great expanse, and the whole set in a frame of mountains,--the nearest bold and dust-net, with the rocky ledges showing through their sides, the distant ones blue and dim,--so far stretched this broad valley.
When I had looked long enough,--no, not long enough, for it
would take a great while to read that page,--we returned within the gate, and
we clambered up, past the cathedral and into the narrow streets above it. The
aspect of everything was immeasurably old; a thousand years would be but a
middle age for one of those houses, built so massively with huge stones and
solid arches, that I do not see how they are ever to
tumble down, or to be less fit for human habitation than they are now. The streets crept between them, and beneath
arched passages, and up and down steps of stone or ancient brick, for it would
be altogether impossible for a carriage to ascend above the Grand Piazza,
though possibly a donkey or a chairman's mule might find foothold. The city seems like a stony growth out of the
hillside, or a fossilized city,--so old and singular it is, without enough life
and juiciness in it to be susceptible of decay. An earthquake is the only
chance of its ever being ruined, beyond its present ruin. Nothing is more strange than to think that
this now dead city--dead, as regards the purposes for which men live
nowadays--was, centuries ago, the seat and birthplace almost of art, the only
art in which the beautiful part of the human mind then developed itself. How came that flower to grow among these wild
mountains? I do not conceive, however,
that the people of
My wife and the rest of the party returned from the convent before noon, delighted with what they had seen, as I was delighted not to have seen it. We ate our dejeuner, and resumed our journey, passing beneath the great convent, after emerging from the gate opposite to that of our entrance. The edifice made a very good spectacle, being of great extent, and standing on a double row of high and narrow arches, on which it is built up from the declivity of the hill.
We soon reached the
We pursued our way, and came, by and by, to the foot of the
high hill on which stands Perugia, and which is so long and steep that Gaetano
took a yoke of oxen to aid his horses in the ascent. We all, except my wife, walked a part of the
way up, and I myself, with J----- for my companion, kept on even to the city
gate,--a distance, I should think, of two or three miles, at least. The lower part of the road was on the edge of
the hill, with a narrow valley on our left; and as the sun had now broken out,
its verdure and fertility, its foliage and cultivation, shone forth in
miraculous beauty, as green as England, as bright as only Italy. Perugia
appeared above us, crowning a mighty hill, the most picturesque of cities; and
the higher we ascended, the more the view opened before us, as we looked back
on the course that we had traversed, and saw the wide valley, sweeping down and
spreading out, bounded afar by mountains, and sleeping in sun and shadow. No language nor any
art of the pencil can give an idea of the scene. When God expressed himself in the landscape
to mankind, he did not intend that it should be translated into any tongue save
his own immediate one. J----- meanwhile, whose heart is now wholly in snail-shells, was
rummaging for them among the stones and hedges by the roadside; yet, doubtless,
enjoyed the prospect more than he knew.
The coach lagged far behind us, and when it came up, we entered the
gate, where a soldier appeared, and demanded my passport. We drove to the Grand Hotel de France, which
is near the gate, and two fine little boys ran beside the carriage, well
dressed and well looking enough to have been a gentleman's sons, but claiming
Gaetano for their father. He is an
Our hotel proves, thus far, to be the best that we have yet
met with. We are only in the outskirts
This morning was as bright as morning could be, even in
The door of the Cambio proved to be one that we had passed several times, while seeking for it, and was very near the church just mentioned, which fronts on one side of the same piazza. We were received by an old gentleman, who appeared to be a public officer, and found ourselves in a small room, wainscoted with beautifully carved oak, roofed with a coved ceiling, painted with symbols of the planets, and arabesqued in rich designs by Raphael, and lined with splendid frescos of subjects, scriptural and historical, by Perugino. When the room was in its first glory, I can conceive that the world had not elsewhere to show, within so small a space, such magnificence and beauty as were then displayed here. Even now, I enjoyed (to the best of my belief, for we can never feel sure that we are not bamboozling ourselves in such matters) some real pleasure in what I saw; and especially seemed to feel, after all these ages, the old painter's devout sentiment still breathing forth from the religious pictures, the work of a hand that had so long been dust.
When we had looked long at these, the old gentleman led us into a chapel, of the same size as the former room, and built in the same fashion, wainscoted likewise with old oak. The walls were also frescoed, entirely frescoed, and retained more of their original brightness than those we had already seen, although the pictures were the production of a somewhat inferior hand, a pupil of Perugino. They seemed to be very striking, however, not the less so, that one of them provoked an unseasonable smile. It was the decapitation of John the Baptist; and this holy personage was represented as still on his knees, with his hands clasped in prayer, although the executioner was already depositing the head in a charger, and the blood was spouting from the headless trunk, directly, as it were, into the face of the spectator.
While we were in the outer room, the cicerone who first offered his services at the hotel had come in; so we paid our chance guide, and expected him to take his leave. It is characteristic of this idle country, however, that if you once speak to a person, or connect yourself with him by the slightest possible tie, you will hardly get rid of him by anything short of main force. He still lingered in the room, and was still there when I came away; for, having had as many pictures as I could digest, I left my wife and U---- with the cicerone, and set out on a ramble with J-----. We plunged from the upper city down through some of the strangest passages that ever were called streets; some of them, indeed, being arched all over, and, going down into the unknown darkness, looked like caverns; and we followed one of them doubtfully, till it opened out upon the light. The houses on each side were divided only by a pace or two, and communicated with one another, here and there, by arched passages. They looked very ancient, and may have been inhabited by Etruscan princes, judging from the massiveness of some of the foundation stones. The present inhabitants, nevertheless, are by no means princely,--shabby men, and the careworn wives and mothers of the people,--one of whom was guiding a child in leading-strings through these antique alleys, where hundreds of generations have trod before those little feet. Finally we came out through a gateway, the same gateway at which we entered last night.
I ought to have mentioned, in the narrative of yesterday,
that we crossed the Tiber shortly before reaching
As I now remember, the small Chapel of Santa Maria degl' Angeli seems to have been originally the house of St. Francis.
May 29th.--This morning we visited the Church of the Dominicans, where we saw some quaint pictures by Fra Angelico, with a good deal of religious sincerity in them; also a picture of St. Columba by Perugino, which unquestionably is very good. To confess the truth, I took more interest in a fair Gothic monument, in white marble, of Pope Benedict XII., representing him reclining under a canopy, while two angels draw aside the curtain, the canopy being supported by twisted columns, richly ornamented. I like this overflow and gratuity of device with which Gothic sculpture works out its designs, after seeing so much of the simplicity of classic art in marble.
We then tried to find the
Finally, we ascended the hill and the city proper of
The best part of Perugia, that in which the grand piazzas and the principal public edifices stand, seems to be a nearly level plateau on the summit of the hill; but it is of no very great extent, and the streets rapidly run downward on either side. J----- and I followed one of these descending streets, and were led a long way by it, till we at last emerged from one of the gates of the city, and had another view of the mountains and valleys, the fertile and sunny wilderness in which this ancient civilization stands.
On the right of the gate there was a rude country-path, partly overgrown with grass, bordered by a hedge on one side, and on the other by the gray city wall, at the base of which the track kept onward. We followed it, hoping that it would lead us to some other gate by which we might re-enter the city; but it soon grew so indistinct and broken, that it was evidently on the point of melting into somebody's olive-orchard or wheat-fields or vineyards, all of which lay on the other side of the hedge; and a kindly old woman of whom I inquired told me (if I rightly understood her Italian) that I should find no further passage in that direction. So we turned back, much broiled in the hot sun, and only now and then relieved by the shadow of an angle or a tower.
A lame beggar-man sat by the gate, and as we passed him
J----- gave him two baiocchi (which he himself had begged of me to buy an
orange with), and was loaded with the pauper's prayers and benedictions as we
entered the city. A great many blessings
can be bought for very little money anywhere in
Of all beggars I think a little fellow, who rode beside our carriage on a stick, his bare feet scampering merrily, while he managed his steed with one hand, and held out the other for charity, howling piteously the while, amused me most.
May 29th.--We left
Passing through and beyond the village, I saw, on a height
above the road, a half-ruinous tower, with great cracks running down its walls,
half-way from top to bottom. Some little
children had mounted the hill with us, begging all the way; they were recruited
with additional members in the village; and here, beneath the ruinous tower, a
madman, as it seemed, assaulted us, and ran almost under the carriage-wheels,
in his earnestness to get a baioccho.
Ridding ourselves of these annoyances, we drove on, and, between five
and six o'clock, came in sight of the
The village street is long, and our escort waxed more numerous at every step, till Miss Shepard actually counted forty of these little reprobates, and more were doubtless added afterwards. At first, no doubt, they begged in earnest hope of getting some baiocchi; but, by and by, perceiving that we had determined not to give them anything, they made a joke of the matter, and began to laugh and to babble, and turn heels over head, still keeping about us, like a swarm of flies, and now and then begging again with all their might. There were as few pretty faces as I ever saw among the same number of children; and they were as ragged and dirty little imps as any in the world, and, moreover, tainted the air with a very disagreeable odor from their rags and dirt; rugged and healthy enough, nevertheless, and sufficiently intelligent; certainly bold and persevering too; so that it is hard to say what they needed to fit them for success in life. Yet they begin as beggars, and no doubt will end so, as all their parents and grandparents do; for in our walk through the village, every old woman and many younger ones held out their hands for alms, as if they had all been famished. Yet these people kept their houses over their heads; had firesides in winter, I suppose, and food out of their little gardens every day; pigs to kill, chickens, olives, wine, and a great many things to make life comfortable. The children, desperately as they begged, looked in good bodily ease, and happy enough; but, certainly, there was a look of earnest misery in the faces of some of the old women, either genuine or exceedingly well acted.
I could not bear the persecution, and went into our hotel,
determining not to venture out again till our departure; at least not in the
daylight. My wife and the rest of the
family, however, continued their walk, and at length were relieved from their
little pests by three policemen (the very images of those in Rome, in their
blue, long-skirted coats, cocked chapeaux-bras, white shoulder-belts, and
swords), who boxed their ears, and dispersed them. Meanwhile, they had quite driven away all
sentimental effusion (of which I felt more, really, than I expected) about the
The inn of Passignano promised little from its outward appearance; a tall, dark old house, with a stone staircase leading us up from one sombre story to another, into a brick-paved dining-room, with our sleeping-chambers on each side. There was a fireplace of tremendous depth and height, fit to receive big forest-logs, and with a queer, double pair of ancient andirons, capable of sustaining them; and in a handful of ashes lay a small stick of olive-wood,--a specimen, I suppose, of the sort of fuel which had made the chimney black, in the course of a good many years. There must have been much shivering and misery of cold around this fireplace. However, we needed no fire now, and there was promise of good cheer in the spectacle of a man cleaning some lake-fish for our dinner, while the poor things flounced and wriggled under the knife.
The dinner made its appearance, after a long while, and was most plentiful, . . . . so that, having measured our appetite in anticipation of a paucity of food, we had to make more room for such overflowing abundance.
When dinner was over, it was already dusk, and before
retiring I opened the window, and looked out on
May 30th.--We started at six o'clock, and left the one ugly
street of Passignano, before many of the beggars were awake. Immediately in the vicinity of the village
there is very little space between the lake in front and the ridge of hills in
the rear; but the plain widened as we drove onward, so that the lake was
scarcely to be seen, or often quite hidden among the intervening trees,
although we could still discern the summits of the mountains that rise far
beyond its shores. The country was fertile,
presenting, on each side of the road, vines trained on fig-trees; wheat-fields
and olives, in greater abundance than any other product. On our right, with a considerable width of
plain between, was the bending ridge of hills that shut in the Roman army, by
its close approach to the lake at Passignano.
In perhaps half all hour's drive, we reached the little bridge that
throws its arch over the Sanguinetto, and alighted there. The stream has but about a yard's width of
water; and its whole course, between the hills and the lake, might well have
been reddened and swollen with the blood of the multitude of slain Romans. Its
name put me in mind of the Bloody Brook at Deerfield, where a company of
The Sanguinetto flows over a bed of pebbles; and J-----
crept under the bridge, and got one of them for a memorial, while U----, Miss
Shepard, and R----- plucked some olive twigs and oak leaves, and made them into
wreaths together,--symbols of victory and peace. The tower, which is traditionally named after
If I mistake not, our passport was examined by the papal
officers at the last custom-house in the pontifical territory, before we
traversed the path through which the Roman army marched to its
destruction. Lake Thrasymene, of which
we took our last view, is not deep set among the hills, but is bordered by long
ridges, with loftier mountains receding into the distance. It is not to be compared to Windermere or
Loch Lomond for beauty, nor with
We saw Cortona, sitting, like so many other cities in this
region, on its hill, and arrived about noon at
I remember one little village, somewhere in the neighborhood of the Clitumnus, which we entered by one gateway, and, in the course of two minutes at the utmost, left by the opposite one, so diminutive was this walled town. Everything hereabouts bears traces of times when war was the prevalent condition, and peace only a rare gleam of sunshine.
------'s enterprise and perseverance, we found the spot, not a
stone's-throw from where we had been sitting.
Petrarch's house stands below the promenade which I have
just mentioned, and within hearing of the reverberations between the strokes of
the cathedral bell. It is two stories
high, covered with a light-colored stucco, and has not
the slightest appearance of antiquity, no more than many a modern and modest
dwelling-house in an American city. Its
only remarkable feature is a pointed arch of stone, let into the plastered
wall, and forming a framework for the doorway.
I set my foot on the doorsteps, ascended them, and Miss Shepard and
J----- gathered some weeds or blades of grass that grew in the chinks between
the steps. There is a long inscription
on a slab of marble set in the front of the house, as is the fashion in
Right opposite Petrarch's birth-house--and it must have been the well whence the water was drawn that first bathed him--is a well which Boccaccio has introduced into one of his stories. It is surrounded with a stone curb, octagonal in shape, and evidently as ancient as Boccaccio's time. It has a wooden cover, through which is a square opening, and looking down I saw my own face in the water far beneath.
There is no familiar object connected with daily life so
interesting as a well; and this well or old
Petrarch's house is not a separate and insulated building, but stands in contiguity and connection with other houses on each side; and all, when I saw them, as well as the whole street, extending down the slope of the hill, had the bright and sunny aspect of a modern town.
As the cathedral was not yet open, and as J----- and I had
not so much patience as my wife, we left her and Miss Shepard, and set out to
return to the hotel. We lost our way,
however, and finally had to return to the cathedral, to take a fresh start; and
as the door was now open we went in. We
found the cathedral very stately with its great arches, and darkly magnificent
with the dim rich light coming through its painted windows, some of which are
reckoned the most beautiful that the whole world has to show. The hues are far more brilliant than those of
any painted glass I saw in
Returning to the hotel, we looked out of the window, and, in the street beneath, there was a very busy scene, it being Sunday, and the whole population, apparently, being astir, promenading up and down the smooth flag-stones, which made the breadth of the street one sidewalk, or at their windows, or sitting before their doors.
The vivacity of the population in these parts is very
striking, after the gravity and lassitude of
I have nothing more to say of Arezzo, except that, finding the ordinary wine very bad, as black as ink, and tasting as if it had tar and vinegar in it, we called for a bottle of Monte Pulciano, and were exceedingly gladdened and mollified thereby.
In the wire-work screen, before many of the shrines, hung offerings of roses and other flowers, some wilted and withered, some fresh with that morning's dew, some that never bloomed and never faded,--being artificial. I wonder that they do not plant rose-trees and all kinds of fragrant and flowering shrubs under the shrines, and twine and wreathe them all around, so that the Virgin may dwell within a bower of perpetual freshness; at least put flower-pots, with living plants, into the niche. There are many things in the customs of these people that might be made very beautiful, if the sense of beauty were as much alive now as it must have been when these customs were first imagined and adopted.
I must not forget, among these little descriptive items, the spectacle of women and girls bearing huge bundles of twigs and shrubs, or grass, with scarlet poppies and blue flowers intermixed; the bundles sometimes so huge as almost to hide the woman's figure from head to heel, so that she looked like a locomotive mass of verdure and flowers; sometimes reaching only half-way down her back, so as to show the crooked knife slung behind, with which she had been reaping this strange harvest-sheaf. A Pre-Raphaelite painter--the one, for instance, who painted the heap of autumnal leaves, which we saw at the Manchester Exhibition--would find an admirable subject in one of these girls, stepping with a free, erect, and graceful carriage, her burden on her head; and the miscellaneous herbage and flowers would give him all the scope he could desire for minute and various delineation of nature.
The country houses which we passed had sometimes open galleries or arcades on the second story and above, where the inhabitants might perform their domestic labor in the shade and in the air. The houses were often ancient, and most picturesquely time-stained, the plaster dropping in spots from the old brickwork; others were tinted of pleasant and cheerful lines; some were frescoed with designs in arabesques, or with imaginary windows; some had escutcheons of arms painted on the front. Wherever there was a pigeon-house, a flight of doves were represented as flying into the holes, doubtless for the invitation and encouragement of the real birds.
Once or twice I saw a bush stuck up before the door of what
seemed to be a wine-shop. If so, it is
the ancient custom, so long disused in
A beautiful feature of the scene to-day, as the preceding day, were the vines growing on fig-trees (?) [This interrogation-mark must mean that Mr. Hawthorne was not sure they were fig-trees.--ED.], and often wreathed in rich festoons from one tree to another, by and by to be hung with clusters of purple grapes. I suspect the vine is a pleasanter object of sight under this mode of culture than it can be in countries where it produces a more precious wine, and therefore is trained more artificially. Nothing can be more picturesque than the spectacle of an old grapevine, with almost a trunk of its own, clinging round its tree, imprisoning within its strong embrace the friend that supported its tender infancy, converting the tree wholly to its own selfish ends, as seemingly flexible natures are apt to do, stretching out its innumerable arms on every bough, and allowing hardly a leaf to sprout except its own. I must not yet quit this hasty sketch, without throwing in, both in the early morning, and later in the forenoon, the mist that dreamed among the hills, and which, now that I have called it mist, I feel almost more inclined to call light, being so quietly cheerful with the sunshine through it. Put in, now and then, a castle on a hilltop; a rough ravine, a smiling valley; a mountain stream, with a far wider bed than it at present needs, and a stone bridge across it, with ancient and massive arches;--and I shall say no more, except that all these particulars, and many better ones which escape me, made up a very pleasant whole.
At about noon we drove into the
At first there is a shade entirely across the street, and
all the within-doors of the village empties itself there, and keeps up a
babblement that seems quite disproportioned even to the multitude of tongues
that make it. So many words are not
spoken in a
As the hot noon sunshine encroaches on our side of the street, it grows a little more quiet. The loungers now confine themselves to the shady margin (growing narrower and narrower) of the other side, where, directly opposite the albergo, there are two cafes and a wine-shop, "vendita di pane, vino, ed altri generi," all in a row with benches before them. The benchers joke with the women passing by, and are joked with back again. The sun still eats away the shadow inch by inch, beating down with such intensity that finally everybody disappears except a few passers-by.
Doubtless the village snatches this half-hour for its siesta. There is a song, however, inside one of the cafes, with a burden in which several voices join. A girl goes through the street, sheltered under her great bundle of freshly cut grass. By and by the song ceases, and two young peasants come out of the cafe, a little affected by liquor, in their shirt-sleeves and bare feet, with their trousers tucked up. They resume their song in the street, and dance along, one's arm around his fellow's neck, his own waist grasped by the other's arm. They whirl one another quite round about, and come down upon their feet. Meeting a village maid coming quietly along, they dance up and intercept her for a moment, but give way to her sobriety of aspect. They pass on, and the shadow soon begins to spread from one side of the street, which presently fills again, and becomes once more, for its size, the noisiest place I ever knew.
We had quite a tolerable dinner at this ugly inn, where many preceding travellers had written their condemnatory judgments, as well as a few their favorable ones, in pencil on the walls of the dining-room.
At setting off [from Incisa], we were surrounded by beggars
as usual, the most interesting of whom were a little blind boy and his mother,
who had besieged us with gentle pertinacity during our whole stay there. There was likewise a man with a maimed hand,
and other hurts or deformities; also, an old woman who, I suspect, only
pretended to be blind, keeping her eyes tightly squeezed together, but
directing her hand very accurately where the copper shower was expected to
fall. Besides these, there were a good
many sturdy little rascals, vociferating in proportion as they needed
nothing. It was touching, however, to
see several persons--themselves beggars for aught I
know--assisting to hold up the little blind boy's tremulous hand, so that he,
at all events, might not lack the pittance which we had to give. Our dole was but a poor one, after all,
consisting of what Roman coppers we had brought into
Immediately after leaving Incisa, we saw the
Our afternoon's drive was through scenery less striking than
some which we had traversed, but still picturesque and beautiful. We saw deep valleys and ravines, with streams
at the bottom; long, wooded hillsides, rising far and high, and dotted with
white dwellings, well towards the summits.
By and by, we had a distant glimpse of Florence, showing its great dome
and some of its towers out of a sidelong valley, as if we were between two
great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills; while, far beyond, rose in the
distance the blue peaks of three or four of the Apennines, just on the remote
horizon. There being a
haziness in the atmosphere, however,
Keeping steadfastly onward, we ascended a winding road, and passed a grand villa, standing very high, and surrounded with extensive grounds. It must be the residence of some great noble; and it has an avenue of poplars or aspens, very light and gay, and fit for the passage of the bridal procession, when the proprietor or his heir brings home his bride; while, in another direction from the same front of the palace, stretches an avenue or grove of cypresses, very long, and exceedingly black and dismal, like a train of gigantic mourners. I have seen few things more striking, in the way of trees, than this grove of cypresses.
From this point we descended, and drove along an ugly, dusty
avenue, with a high brick wall on one side or both, till we reached the gate of
As we hoped that the Casa del Bello
had been taken for us, we drove thither in the first place, but found that the
bargain had not been concluded. As the
house and studio of Mr. Powers were just on the opposite side of the street, I
went to it, but found him too much engrossed to see me at the moment; so I
returned to the vettura, and we told Gaetano to carry us to a hotel. He established us at the Albergo della Fontana, a good and comfortable house. . . . . Mr. Powers called in the evening,--a plain personage, characterized
by strong simplicity and warm kindliness, with an impending brow, and large
eyes, which kindle as he speaks.
He is gray, and slightly bald, but does not seem elderly, nor past his
prime. I accept him at once as an honest
and trustworthy man, and shall not vary from this judgment. Through his good offices, the next day, we
engaged the Casa del Bello, at a rent of fifty dollars
a month, and I shall take another opportunity (my fingers and head being tired
now) to write about the house, and Mr. Powers, and what appertains to him, and
about the beautiful city of
June 4th.--At our visit to Powers's studio on Tuesday, we
saw a marble copy of the fisher-boy holding a shell to his ear, and the bust of
Proserpine, and two or three other ideal busts; various casts of most of the
ideal statues and portrait busts which he has executed. He talks very freely about his works, and is
no exception to the rule that an artist is not apt to speak in a very laudatory
style of a brother artist. He showed us a bust of Mr. Sparks by Persico,--a
lifeless and thoughtless thing enough, to be sure,--and compared it with a very
good one of the same gentleman by himself; but his chiefest scorn was bestowed
on a wretched and ridiculous image of Mr. King, of Alabama, by Clark Mills, of
which he said he had been employed to make several copies for Southern
gentlemen. The consciousness of power is
plainly to be seen, and the assertion of it by no means withheld, in his simple
and natural character; nor does it give me an idea of vanity on his part to see
and hear it. He appears to consider
himself neglected by his country,--by the government of it, at least,--and
talks with indignation of the byways and political intrigue which, he thinks,
win the rewards that ought to be bestowed exclusively on merit. An appropriation of twenty-five thousand
dollars was made, some years ago, for a work of sculpture by him, to be placed
in the Capitol; but the intermediate measures necessary to render it effective
have been delayed; while the above-mentioned Clark Mills--certainly the
greatest bungler that ever botched a block of marble--has received an order for
an equestrian statue of
His long absence from our country has made him think worse of us than we deserve; and it is an effect of what I myself am sensible, in my shorter exile: the most piercing shriek, the wildest yell, and all the ugly sounds of popular turmoil, inseparable from the life of a republic, being a million times more audible than the peaceful hum of prosperity and content which is going on all the while.
He talks of going home, but says that he has been talking of it every year since he first came to Italy; and between his pleasant life of congenial labor, and his idea of moral deterioration in America, I think it doubtful whether he ever crosses the sea again. Like most exiles of twenty years, he has lost his native country without finding another; but then it is as well to recognize the truth,--that an individual country is by no means essential to one's comfort.
Powers took us into the farthest room, I believe, of his
very extensive studio, and showed us a statue of
When we had looked sufficiently at the sculpture, Powers proposed that we should now go across the street and see the Casa del Bello. We did so in a body, Powers in his dressing-gown and slippers, and his wife and daughters without assuming any street costume.
The Casa del Bello is a palace of
three pianos, the topmost of which is occupied by the Countess of St. George,
an English lady, and two lower pianos are to be let, and we looked at both. The upper one would have suited me well
enough; but the lower has a terrace, with a rustic summer-house over it, and is
connected with a garden, where there are arbors and a willow-tree, and a little
wilderness of shrubbery and roses, with a fountain in the midst. It has likewise an immense suite of rooms,
round the four sides of a small court, spacious, lofty, with frescoed ceilings
and rich hangings, and abundantly furnished with arm-chairs, sofas, marble tables,
and great looking-glasses. Not that
these last are a great temptation, but in our wandering life I wished to be
perfectly comfortable myself, and to make my family so, for just this summer,
and so I have taken the lower piano, the price being only fifty dollars per
month (entirely furnished, even to silver and linen). Certainly this is something like the paradise
of cheapness we were told of, and which we vainly sought in
To me has been assigned the pleasantest room for my study; and when I like I can overflow into the summer-house or an arbor, and sit there dreaming of a story. The weather is delightful, too warm to walk, but perfectly fit to do nothing in, in the coolness of these great rooms. Every day I shall write a little, perhaps,--and probably take a brief nap somewhere between breakfast and tea,--but go to see pictures and statues occasionally, and so assuage and mollify myself a little after that uncongenial life of the consulate, and before going back to my own hard and dusty New England.
After concluding the arrangement for the Casa del Bello, we stood talking a little while with Powers and his wife and daughter before the door of the house, for they seem so far to have adopted the habits of the Florentines as to feel themselves at home on the shady side of the street. The out-of-door life and free communication with the pavement, habitual apparently among the middle classes, reminds me of the plays of Moliere and other old dramatists, in which the street or the square becomes a sort of common parlor, where most of the talk and scenic business of the people is carried on.
June 5th.--For two or three mornings after breakfast I have rambled a little about the city till the shade grew narrow beneath the walls of the houses, and the heat made it uncomfortable to be in motion. To-day I went over the Ponte Carraja, and thence into and through the heart of the city, looking into several churches, in all of which I found people taking advantage of the cool breadth of these sacred interiors to refresh themselves and say their prayers. Florence at first struck me as having the aspect of a very new city in comparison with Rome; but, on closer acquaintance, I find that many of the buildings are antique and massive, though still the clear atmosphere, the bright sunshine, the light, cheerful hues of the stucco, and--as much as anything else, perhaps--the vivacious character of the human life in the streets, take away the sense of its being an ancient city. The streets are delightful to walk in after so many penitential pilgrimages as I have made over those little square, uneven blocks of the Roman pavement, which wear out the boots and torment the soul. I absolutely walk on the smooth flags of Florence for the mere pleasure of walking, and live in its atmosphere for the mere pleasure of living; and, warm as the weather is getting to be, I never feel that inclination to sink down in a heap and never stir again, which was my dull torment and misery as long as I stayed in Rome. I hardly think there can be a place in the world where life is more delicious for its own simple sake than here.
I went to-day into the Baptistery, which stands near the
Duomo, and, like that, is covered externally with slabs of black and white
marble, now grown brown and yellow with age.
The edifice is octagonal, and on entering, one immediately thinks of the
Pantheon,--the whole space within being free from side to side, with a dome
above; but it differs from the severe simplicity of the former edifice, being
elaborately ornamented with marble and frescos, and lacking that great eye in
the roof that looks so nobly and reverently heavenward from the Pantheon. I did little more than pass through the
Baptistery, glancing at the famous bronze doors, some perfect and admirable
casts of which I had already seen at the
The entrance of the Duomo being just across the piazza, I went in there after leaving the Baptistery, and was struck anew--for this is the third or fourth visit--with the dim grandeur of the interior, lighted as it is almost exclusively by painted windows, which seem to me worth all the variegated marbles and rich cabinet-work of St. Peter's. The Florentine Cathedral has a spacious and lofty nave, and side aisles divided from it by pillars; but there are no chapels along the aisles, so that there is far more breadth and freedom of interior, in proportion to the actual space, than is usual in churches. It is woful to think how the vast capaciousness within St. Peter's is thrown away, and made to seem smaller than it is by every possible device, as if on purpose. The pillars and walls of this Duomo are of a uniform brownish, neutral tint; the pavement, a mosaic work of marble; the ceiling of the dome itself is covered with frescos, which, being very imperfectly lighted, it is impossible to trace out. Indeed, it is but a twilight region that is enclosed within the firmament of this great dome, which is actually larger than that of St. Peter's, though not lifted so high from the pavement. But looking at the painted windows, I little cared what dimness there might be elsewhere; for certainly the art of man has never contrived any other beauty and glory at all to be compared to this.
The dome sits, as it were, upon three smaller domes,--smaller, but still great,--beneath which are three vast niches, forming the transepts of the cathedral and the tribune behind the high altar. All round these hollow, dome-covered arches or niches are high and narrow windows crowded with saints, angels, and all manner of blessed shapes, that turn the common daylight into a miracle of richness and splendor as it passes through their heavenly substance. And just beneath the swell of the great central dome is a wreath of circular windows quite round it, as brilliant as the tall and narrow ones below. It is a pity anybody should die without seeing an antique painted window, with the bright Italian sunshine glowing through it. This is "the dim, religious light" that Milton speaks of; but I doubt whether he saw these windows when he was in Italy, or any but those faded or dusty and dingy ones of the English cathedrals, else he would have illuminated that word "dim" with some epithet that should not chase away the dimness, yet should make it shine like a million of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and topazes,--bright in themselves, but dim with tenderness and reverence because God himself was shining through them. I hate what I have said.
All the time that I was in the cathedral the space around the high altar, which stands exactly under the dome, was occupied by priests or acolytes in white garments, chanting a religious service.
After coming out, I took a view of the edifice from a corner of the street nearest to the dome, where it and the smaller domes can be seen at once. It is greatly more satisfactory than St. Peter's in any view I ever had of it,--striking in its outline, with a mystery, yet not a bewilderment, in its masses and curves and angles, and wrought out with a richness of detail that gives the eyes new arches, new galleries, new niches, new pinnacles, new beauties, great and small, to play with when wearied with the vast whole. The hue, black and white marbles, like the Baptistery, turned also yellow and brown, is greatly preferable to the buff travertine of St. Peter's.
From the Duomo it is but a moderate street's length to the
Piazza del Gran Duca, the principal
It is a pity that we cannot take as much interest in the
history of these
At one corner of the Palazzo Vecchio is a bronze equestrian
statue of Cosmo de' Medici, the first Grand Duke, very stately and majestic;
there are other marble statues--one of David, by Michael Angelo--at each side
of the palace door; and entering the court I found a rich antique arcade
within, surrounded by marble pillars, most elaborately carved, supporting
arches that were covered with faded frescos.
I went no farther, but stepped across a little space of the square to
the Loggia di Lanzi, which is broad and noble, of three vast arches, at the end
of which, I take it, is a part of the Palazzo Uffizi fronting on the
piazza. I should call it a portico if it
stood before the palace door; but it seems to have been constructed merely for
itself, and as a shelter for the people from sun and rain, and to contain some
fine specimens of sculpture, as well antique as of more modern times. Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus stands here; but
it did not strike me so much as the cast of it in the
A good many people were under these great arches; some of whom were reclining, half or quite asleep, on the marble seats that are built against the back of the loggia. A group was reading an edict of the Grand Duke, which appeared to have been just posted on a board, at the farther end of it; and I was surprised at the interest which they ventured to manifest, and the freedom with which they seemed to discuss it. A soldier was on guard, and doubtless there were spies enough to carry every word that was said to the ear of absolute authority. Glancing myself at the edict, however, I found it referred only to the furtherance of a project, got up among the citizens themselves, for bringing water into the city; and on such topics, I suppose there is freedom of discussion.
June 7th.--Saturday evening we walked with U---- and J----- into the city, and looked at the exterior of the Duomo with new admiration. Since my former view of it, I have noticed--which, strangely enough, did not strike me before--that the facade is but a great, bare, ugly space, roughly plastered over, with the brickwork peeping through it in spots, and a faint, almost invisible fresco of colors upon it. This front was once nearly finished with an incrustation of black and white marble, like the rest of the edifice; but one of the city magistrates, Benedetto Uguccione, demolished it, three hundred years ago, with the idea of building it again in better style. He failed to do so, and, ever since, the magnificence of the great church has been marred by this unsightly roughness of what should have been its richest part; nor is there, I suppose, any hope that it will ever be finished now.
The campanile, or bell-tower, stands within a few paces of the cathedral, but entirely disconnected from it, rising to a height of nearly three hundred feet, a square tower of light marbles, now discolored by time. It is impossible to give an idea of the richness of effect produced by its elaborate finish; the whole surface of the four sides, from top to bottom, being decorated with all manner of statuesque and architectural sculpture. It is like a toy of ivory, which some ingenious and pious monk might have spent his lifetime in adorning with scriptural designs and figures of saints; and when it was finished, seeing it so beautiful, he prayed that it might be miraculously magnified from the size of one foot to that of three hundred. This idea somewhat satisfies me, as conveying an impression how gigantesque the campanile is in its mass and height, and how minute and varied in its detail. Surely these mediaeval works have an advantage over the classic. They combine the telescope and the microscope.
The city was all alive in the summer evening, and the streets humming with voices. Before the doors of the cafes were tables, at which people were taking refreshment, and it went to my heart to see a bottle of English ale, some of which was poured foaming into a glass; at least, it had exactly the amber hue and the foam of English bitter ale; but perhaps it may have been merely a Florentine imitation.
As we returned home over the Arno, crossing the Ponte di Santa Trinita, we were struck by the beautiful scene of the broad, calm river, with the palaces along its shores repeated in it, on either side, and the neighboring bridges, too, just as perfect in the tide beneath as in the air above,--a city of dream and shadow so close to the actual one. God has a meaning, no doubt, in putting this spiritual symbol continually beside us.
Along the river, on both sides, as far as we could see,
there was a row of brilliant lamps, which, in the far distance, looked like a
cornice of golden light; and this also shone as brightly in the river's
depths. The lilies of the evening, in
the quarter where the sun had gone down, were very soft and beautiful, though
not so gorgeous as thousands that I have seen in
Last evening, Mr. Powers called to see us, and sat down to talk in a friendly and familiar way. I do not know a man of more facile intercourse, nor with whom one so easily gets rid of ceremony. His conversation, too, is interesting. He talked, to begin with, about Italian food, as poultry, mutton, beef, and their lack of savoriness as compared with our own; and mentioned an exquisite dish of vegetables which they prepare from squash or pumpkin blossoms; likewise another dish, which it will be well for us to remember when we get back to the Wayside, where we are overrun with acacias. It consists of the acacia-blossoms in a certain stage of their development fried in olive-oil. I shall get the receipt from Mrs. Powers, and mean to deserve well of my country by first trying it, and then making it known; only I doubt whether American lard, or even butter, will produce the dish quite so delicately as fresh Florence oil.
Meanwhile, I like Powers all the better, because he does not put his life wholly into marble. We had much talk, nevertheless, on matters of sculpture, for he drank a cup of tea with us, and stayed a good while.
He passed a condemnatory sentence on classic busts in
general, saying that they were conventional, and not to be depended upon as
trite representations of the persons. He
particularly excepted none but the bust of Caracalla;
and, indeed, everybody that has seen this bust must feel the justice of the
exception, and so be the more inclined to accept his opinion about the
rest. There are not more than half a
dozen--that of Cato the Censor among the others--in regard to which I should
like to ask his judgment individually.
He seems to think the faculty of making a bust an extremely rare
one. Canova put his own likeness into
all the busts he made. Greenough could
not make a good one; nor Crawford, nor Gibson. Mr. Harte, he observed,--an American
sculptor, now a resident in
We asked him what he thought, of Mr. Gibson's practice of
coloring his statues, and he quietly and slyly said
that he himself had made wax figures in his earlier days, but had left off
making them now. In short, he objected
to the practice wholly, and said that a letter of his on the subject had been
published in the
Mr. Powers, nevertheless, had brought us a bunch of beautiful roses, and seemed as capable of appreciating their delicate blush as we were. The best thing he said against the use of color in marble was to the effect that the whiteness removed the object represented into a sort of spiritual region, and so gave chaste permission to those nudities which would otherwise suggest immodesty. I have myself felt the truth of this in a certain sense of shame as I looked at Gibson's tinted Venus.
He took his leave at about eight o'clock, being to make a
call on the Bryants, who are at the Hotel de
END OF VOL. I. (Volume II. Follows)
June 8th.--I went this morning to the Uffizi gallery. The entrance is from the great court of the
palace, which communicates with Lung'
I chiefly paid attention to the sculpture, and was
interested in a long series of busts of the emperors and the members of their
families, and some of the great men of
I wish some competent person would undertake to analyze and develop his character, and how and by what necessity--with all his elegant tastes, his love of the beautiful, his artist nature--he grew to be such a monster. Nero has never yet had justice done him, nor have any of the wicked emperors; not that I suppose them to have been any less monstrous than history represents them; but there must surely have been something in their position and circumstances to render the terrible moral disease which seized upon them so generally almost inevitable. A wise and profound man, tender and reverent of the human soul, and capable of appreciating it in its height and depth, has a great field here for the exercise of his powers. It has struck me, in reading the history of the Italian republics, that many of the tyrants, who sprung up after the destruction of their liberties, resembled the worst of the Roman emperors. The subject of Nero and his brethren has often perplexed me with vain desires to come at the truth.
There were many beautiful specimens of antique, ideal sculpture all along the gallery,--Apollos, Bacchuses, Venuses, Mercurys, Fauns,--with the general character of all of which I was familiar enough to recognize them at a glance. The mystery and wonder of the gallery, however, the Venus de' Medici, I could nowhere see, and indeed was almost afraid to see it; for I somewhat apprehended the extinction of another of those lights that shine along a man's pathway, and go out in a snuff the instant he comes within eyeshot of the fulfilment of his hopes. My European experience has extinguished many such. I was pretty well contented, therefore, not to find the famous statue in the whole of my long journey from end to end of the gallery, which terminates on the opposite side of the court from that where it commences. The ceiling, by the by, through the entire length, is covered with frescos, and the floor paved with a composition of stone smooth and polished like marble. The final piece of sculpture, at the end of the gallery, is a copy of the Laocoon, considered very fine. I know not why, but it did not impress me with the sense of mighty and terrible repose--a repose growing out of the infinitude of trouble--that I had felt in the original.
Parallel with the gallery, on both sides of the palace-court, there runs a series of rooms devoted chiefly to pictures, although statues and bas-reliefs are likewise contained in some of them. I remember an unfinished bas-relief by Michael Angelo of a Holy Family, which I touched with my finger, because it seemed as if he might have been at work upon it only an hour ago. The pictures I did little more than glance at, till I had almost completed again the circuit of the gallery, through this series of parallel rooms, and then I came upon a collection of French and Dutch and Flemish masters, all of which interested me more than the Italian generally. There was a beautiful picture by Claude, almost as good as those in the British National Gallery, and very like in subject; the sun near the horizon, of course, and throwing its line of light over the ripple of water, with ships at the strand, and one or two palaces of stately architecture on the shore. Landscapes by Rembrandt; fat Graces and other plump nudities by Rubens; brass pans and earthen pots and herrings by Terriers and other Dutchmen; none by Gerard Douw, I think, but several by Mieris; all of which were like bread and beef and ale, after having been fed too long on made dishes. This is really a wonderful collection of pictures; and from first, to last--from Giotto to the men of yesterday--they are in admirable condition, and may be appreciated for all the merit that they ever possessed.
I could not quite believe that I was not to find the Venus de' Medici; and still, as I passed from one room to another, my breath rose and fell a little, with the half-hope, half-fear, that she might stand before me. Really, I did not know that I cared so much about Venus, or any possible woman of marble. At last, when I had come from among the Dutchmen, I believe, and was looking at some works of Italian artists, chiefly Florentines, I caught a glimpse of her through the door of the next room. It is the best room of the series, octagonal in shape, and hung with red damask, and the light comes down from a row of windows, passing quite round, beneath an octagonal dome. The Venus stands somewhat aside from the centre of the room, and is surrounded by an iron railing, a pace or two from her pedestal in front, and less behind. I think she might safely be left to the reverence her womanhood would win, without any other protection. She is very beautiful, very satisfactory; and has a fresh and new charm about her unreached by any cast or copy. The line of the marble is just so much mellowed by time, as to do for her all that Gibson tries, or ought to try to do for his statues by color, softening her, warming her almost imperceptibly, making her an inmate of the heart, as well as a spiritual existence. I felt a kind of tenderness for her; an affection, not as if she were one woman, but all womanhood in one. Her modest attitude, which, before I saw her I had not liked, deeming that it might be an artificial shame, is partly what unmakes her as the heathen goddess, and softens her into woman. There is a slight degree of alarm, too, in her face; not that she really thinks anybody is looking at her, yet the idea has flitted through her mind, and startled her a little. Her face is so beautiful and intellectual, that it is not dazzled out of sight by her form. Methinks this was a triumph for the sculptor to achieve. I may as well stop here. It is of no use to throw heaps of words upon her; for they all fall away, and leave her standing in chaste and naked grace, as untouched as when I began.
She has suffered terribly by the mishaps of her long existence in the marble. Each of her legs has been broken into two or three fragments, her arms have been severed, her body has been broken quite across at the waist, her head has been snapped off at the neck. Furthermore, there have been grievous wounds and losses of substance in various tender parts of her person. But on account of the skill with which the statue has been restored, and also because the idea is perfect and indestructible, all these injuries do not in the least impair the effect, even when you see where the dissevered fragments have been reunited. She is just as whole as when she left the hands of the sculptor. I am glad to have seen this Venus, and to have found her so tender and so chaste. On the wall of the room, and to be taken in at the same glance, is a painted Venus by Titian, reclining on a couch, naked and lustful.
The room of the Venus seems to be the treasure-place of the
As we were at dinner to-day, at half past three, there was a ring at the door, and a minute after our servant brought a card. It was Mr. Robert Browning's, and on it was written in pencil an invitation for us to go to see them this evening. He had left the card and gone away; but very soon the bell rang again, and he had come back, having forgotten to give his address. This time he came in; and he shook hands with all of us, children and grown people, and was very vivacious and agreeable. He looked younger and even handsomer than when I saw him in London, two years ago, and his gray hairs seemed fewer than those that had then strayed into his youthful head. He talked a wonderful quantity in a little time, and told us--among other things that we should never have dreamed of--that Italian people will not cheat you, if you construe them generously, and put them upon their honor.
Mr. Browning was very kind and warm in his expressions of
pleasure at seeing us; and, on our part, we were all very glad to meet
him. He must be an exceedingly likable
man. . . . . They are to leave
The Venus de' Medici has a dimple in her chin.
June 9th.--We went last evening, at eight o'clock, to see the Brownings; and, after some search and inquiry, we found the Casa Guidi, which is a palace in a street not very far from our own. It being dusk, I could not see the exterior, which, if I remember, Browning has celebrated in song; at all events, Mrs. Browning has called one of her poems "Casa Guidi Windows."
The street is a narrow one; but on entering the palace, we
found a spacious staircase and ample accommodations of vestibule and hall, the
latter opening on a balcony, where we could hear the chanting of priests in a
church close by. Browning told us that
this was the first church where an oratorio had ever been performed. He came into the anteroom to greet us, as did
his little boy, Robert, whom they call Pennini for fondness. The latter cognomen is a diminutive of
Apennino, which was bestowed upon him at his first advent into the world
because he was so very small, there being a statue in
Mrs. Browning met us at the door of the drawing-room, and greeted us most kindly,--a pale, small person, scarcely embodied at all; at any rate, only substantial enough to put forth her slender fingers to be grasped, and to speak with a shrill, yet sweet, tenuity of voice. Really, I do not see how Mr. Browning can suppose that he has an earthly wife any more than an earthly child; both are of the elfin race, and will flit away from him some day when he least thinks of it. She is a good and kind fairy, however, and sweetly disposed towards the human race, although only remotely akin to it. It is wonderful to see how small she is, how pale her cheek, how bright and dark her eyes. There is not such another figure in the world; and her black ringlets cluster down into her neck, and make her face look the whiter by their sable profusion. I could not form any judgment about her age; it may range anywhere within the limits of human life or elfin life. When I met her in London at Lord Houghton's breakfast-table, she did not impress me so singularly; for the morning light is more prosaic than the dim illumination of their great tapestried drawing-room; and besides, sitting next to her, she did not have occasion to raise her voice in speaking, and I was not sensible what a slender voice she has. It is marvellous to me how so extraordinary, so acute, so sensitive a creature can impress us, as she does, with the certainty of her benevolence. It seems to me there were a million chances to one that she would have been a miracle of acidity and bitterness.
We were not the only guests. Mr. and Mrs. E------, Americans, recently from the East, and on intimate terms with the Brownings, arrived after us; also Miss F. H------, an English literary lady, whom I have met several times in Liverpool; and lastly came the white head and palmer-like beard of Mr. ------ with his daughter. Mr. Browning was very efficient in keeping up conversation with everybody, and seemed to be in all parts of the room and in every group at the same moment; a most vivid and quick-thoughted person, logical and common-sensible, as, I presume, poets generally are in their daily talk.
Mr. ------, as usual, was homely and plain of manner, with an old-fashioned dignity, nevertheless, and a remarkable deference and gentleness of tone in addressing Mrs. Browning. I doubt, however, whether he has any high appreciation either of her poetry or her husband's, and it is my impression that they care as little about his.
We had some tea and some strawberries, and passed a pleasant evening. There was no very noteworthy conversation; the most interesting topic being that disagreeable and now wearisome one of spiritual communications, as regards which Mrs. Browning is a believer, and her husband an infidel. Mr. ------ appeared not to have made up his mind on the matter, but told a story of a successful communication between Cooper the novelist and his sister, who had been dead fifty years. Browning and his wife had both been present at a spiritual session held by Mr. Hume, and had seen and felt the unearthly hands, one of which had placed a laurel wreath on Mrs. Browning's head. Browning, however, avowed his belief that these hands were affixed to the feet of Mr. Hume, who lay extended in his chair, with his legs stretched far under the table. The marvellousness of the fact, as I have read of it, and heard it from other eye-witnesses, melted strangely away in his hearty gripe, and at the sharp touch of his logic; while his wife, ever and anon, put in a little gentle word of expostulation.
I am rather surprised that Browning's conversation should be so clear, and so much to the purpose at the moment, since his poetry can seldom proceed far without running into the high grass of latent meanings and obscure allusions.
Mrs. Browning's health does not permit late hours, so we
began to take heave at about ten o'clock.
I heard her ask Mr. ------ if he did not mean to revisit
Little Pennini, during the evening, sometimes helped the guests to cake and strawberries; joined in the conversation, when he had anything to say, or sat down upon a couch to enjoy his own meditations. He has long curling hair, and has not yet emerged from his frock and short hose. It is funny to think of putting him into trousers. His likeness to his mother is strange to behold.
June 10th.--My wife and I went to the
After making the circuit of the grand-ducal apartments, we went into a door in the left wing of the palace, and ascended a narrow flight of stairs,--several tortuous flights indeed,--to the picture-gallery. It fills a great many stately halls, which themselves are well worth a visit for the architecture and frescos; only these matters become commonplace after travelling through a mile or two of them. The collection of pictures--as well for their number as for the celebrity and excellence of many of them--is the most interesting that I have seen, and I do not yet feel in a condition, nor perhaps ever shall, to speak of a single one. It gladdened my very heart to find that they were not darkened out of sight, nor apparently at all injured by time, but were well kept and varnished, brilliantly framed, and, no doubt, restored by skilful touches if any of them needed it. The artists and amateurs may say what they like; for my part, I know no drearier feeling than that inspired by a ruined picture,--ruined, that is, by time, damp, or rough treatment,--and I would a thousand times rather an artist should do his best towards reviving it, than have it left in such a condition. I do not believe, however, that these pictures have been sacrilegiously interfered with; at all events, I saw in the masterpieces no touch but what seemed worthy of the master-hand.
The most beautiful picture in the world, I am convinced, is Raphael's "Madonna della Seggiola." I was familiar with it in a hundred engravings and copies, and therefore it shone upon one as with a familiar beauty, though infinitely more divine than I had ever seen it before. An artist was copying it, and producing certainly something very like a fac-simile, yet leaving out, as a matter of course, that mysterious something that renders the picture a miracle. It is my present opinion that the pictorial art is capable of something more like magic, more wonderful and inscrutable in its methods, than poetry or any other mode of developing the beautiful. But how does this accord with what I have been saying only a minute ago? How then can the decayed picture of a great master ever be restored by the touches of an inferior hand? Doubtless it never can be restored; but let some devoted worshipper do his utmost, and the whole inherent spirit of the divine picture may pervade his restorations likewise.
I saw the "Three Fates" of Michael Angelo, which
were also being copied, as were many other of the best
pictures. Miss Fanny Howorth, whom I met
in the gallery, told me that to copy the "Madonna della
Seggiola," application must be made five years beforehand, so many are the
artists who aspire to copy it. Michael
Angelo's Fates are three very grim and pitiless old women, who respectively
spin, hold, and cut the thread of human destiny, all in a mood of sombre gloom,
but with no more sympathy than if they had nothing to do with us. I remember seeing an etching of this when I
was a child, and being struck, even then, with the terrible, stern, passionless
severity, neither loving us nor hating us, that characterizes these ugly old
women. If they were angry, or had the
least spite against human kind, it would render them the more tolerable. They are a great work, containing and
representing the very idea that makes a belief in fate such a cold torture to
the human soul. God give me the sure
belief in his
In a year's time, with the advantage of access to this
magnificent gallery, I think I might come to have some little knowledge of
pictures. At present I still know nothing; but am glad to find myself capable,
at least, of loving one picture better than another. I cannot always "keep the heights I gain,"
however, and after admiring and being moved by a picture one day, it is within
my experience to look at it the next as little moved as if it were a
tavern-sign. It is pretty much the same
with statuary; the same, too, with those pictured windows of the Duomo, which I
described so rapturously a few days ago.
I looked at them again the next morning, and thought they would have
been hardly worthy of my eulogium, even had all the separate windows of the
cathedral combined their narrow lights into one grand, resplendent,
many-colored arch at the eastern end. It
is a pity they are so narrow.
From the gallery, I went into the
June 11th.--I paid another visit to the Uffizi gallery this morning, and found that the Venus is one of the things the charm of which does not diminish on better acquaintance. The world has not grown weary of her in all these ages; and mortal man may look on her with new delight from infancy to old age, and keep the memory of her, I should imagine, as one of the treasures of spiritual existence hereafter. Surely, it makes me more ready to believe in the high destinies of the human race, to think that this beautiful form is but nature's plan for all womankind, and that the nearer the actual woman approaches it, the more natural she is. I do not, and cannot think of her as a senseless image, but as a being that lives to gladden the world, incapable of decay and death; as young and fair to-day as she was three thousand years ago, and still to be young and fair as long as a beautiful thought shall require physical embodiment. I wonder how any sculptor has had the impertinence to aim at any other presentation of female beauty. I mean no disrespect to Gibson or Powers, or a hundred other men who people the world with nudities, all of which are abortions as compared with her; but I think the world would be all the richer if their Venuses, their Greek Slaves, their Eves, were burnt into quicklime, leaving us only this statue as our image of the beautiful. I observed to-day that the eyes of the statue are slightly hollowed out, in a peculiar way, so as to give them a look of depth and intelligence. She is a miracle. The sculptor must have wrought religiously, and have felt that something far beyond his own skill was working through his hands. I mean to leave off speaking of the Venus hereafter, in utter despair of saying what I wish; especially as the contemplation of the statue will refine and elevate my taste, and make it continually more difficult to express my sense of its excellence, as the perception of it grows upon one. If at any time I become less sensible of it, it will be my deterioration, not any defect in the statue.
I looked at many of the pictures, and found myself in a favorable mood for enjoying them. It seems to me that a work of art is entitled to credit for all that it makes us feel in our best moments; and we must judge of its merits by the impression it then makes, and not by the coldness and insensibility of our less genial moods.
After leaving the
June 13th.--We called at the Powers's yesterday morning to leave R-----there for an hour or two to play with the children; and it being not yet quite time for the Pitti Palace, we stopped into the studio. Soon Mr. Powers made his appearance, in his dressing-gown and slippers and sculptor's cap, smoking a cigar. . . . . He was very cordial and pleasant, as I have always found him, and began immediately to be communicative about his own works, or any other subject that came up. There were two casts of the Venus de' Medici in the rooms, which he said were valuable in a commercial point of view, being genuine casts from the mould taken from the statue. He then gave us a quite unexpected but most interesting lecture on the Venus, demonstrating it, as he proceeded, by reference to the points which he criticised. The figure, he seemed to allow, was admirable, though I think he hardly classes it so high as his own Greek Slave or Eva; but the face, he began with saying, was that of an idiot. Then, leaning on the pedestal of the cast, he continued, "It is rather a bold thing to say, isn't it, that the sculptor of the Venus de' Medici did not know what he was about?"
Truly, it appeared to me so; but Powers went on remorselessly, and showed, in the first place, that the eye was not like any eye that Nature ever made; and, indeed, being examined closely, and abstracted from the rest of the face, it has a very queer look,--less like a human eye than a half-worn buttonhole! Then he attacked the ear, which, he affirmed and demonstrated, was placed a good deal too low on the head, thereby giving an artificial and monstrous height to the portion of the head above it. The forehead met with no better treatment in his hands, and as to the mouth, it was altogether wrong, as well in its general make as in such niceties as the junction of the skin of the lips to the common skin around them. In a word, the poor face was battered all to pieces and utterly demolished; nor was it possible to doubt or question that it fell by its own demerits. All that could be urged in its defence--and even that I did not urge--being that this very face had affected me, only the day before, with a sense of higher beauty and intelligence than I had ever then received from sculpture, and that its expression seemed to accord with that of the whole figure, as if it were the sweetest note of the same music. There must be something in this; the sculptor disregarded technicalities, and the imitation of actual nature, the better to produce the effect which he really does produce, in somewhat the same way as a painter works his magical illusions by touches that have no relation to the truth if looked at from the wrong point of view. But Powers considers it certain that the antique sculptor had bestowed all his care on the study of the human figure, and really did not know how to make a face. I myself used to think that the face was a much less important thing with the Greeks, among whom the entire beauty of the form was familiarly seen, than with ourselves, who allow no other nudity.
After annihilating the poor visage, Powers showed us his two busts of Proserpine and Psyche, and continued his lecture by showing the truth to nature with which these are modelled. I freely acknowledge the fact; there is no sort of comparison to be made between the beauty, intelligence, feeling, and accuracy of representation in these two faces and in that of the Venus de' Medici. A light--the light of a soul proper to each individual character--seems to shine from the interior of the marble, and beam forth from the features, chiefly from the eyes. Still insisting upon the eye, and hitting the poor Venus another and another and still another blow on that unhappy feature, Mr. Powers turned up and turned inward and turned outward his own Titanic orb,--the biggest, by far, that ever I saw in mortal head,--and made us see and confess that there was nothing right in the Venus and everything right in Psyche and Proserpine. To say the truth, their marble eyes have life, and, placing yourself in the proper position towards them, you can meet their glances, and feel them mingle with your own. Powers is a great man, and also a tender and delicate one, massive and rude of surface as he looks; and it is rather absurd to feel how he impressed his auditor, for the time being, with his own evident idea that nobody else is worthy to touch marble. Mr. B------ told me that Powers has had many difficulties on professional grounds, as I understood him, and with his brother artists. No wonder! He has said enough in my hearing to put him at swords' points with sculptors of every epoch and every degree between the two inclusive extremes of Phidias and Clark Mills.
He has a bust of the reigning Grand Duchess of Tuscany, who
sat to him for it. The bust is that of a
noble-looking lady; and Powers remarked that royal personages have a certain
look that distinguishes them from other people, and is seen in individuals of
no lower rank. They all have it; the
Queen of England and Prince Albert have it; and so likewise has every other
Royalty, although the possession of this kingly look implies nothing whatever
as respects kingly and commanding qualities.
He said that none of our public men, whatever authority they may have
held, or for whatever length of time, possess this look, but he added afterwards
Among other models of statues heretofore made, Powers showed
us one of Melancholy, or rather of Contemplation, from
One piece of sculpture Powers exhibited, however, which was very exquisite, and such as I never saw before. Opening a desk, he took out something carefully enclosed between two layers of cotton-wool, on removing which there appeared a little baby's hand most delicately represented in the whitest marble; all the dimples where the knuckles were to be, all the creases in the plump flesh, every infantine wrinkle of the soft skin being lovingly recorded. "The critics condemn minute representation," said Powers; "but you may look at this through a microscope and see if it injures the general effect." Nature herself never made a prettier or truer little hand. It was the hand of his daughter,--"Luly's hand," Powers called it,--the same that gave my own such a frank and friendly grasp when I first met "Luly." The sculptor made it only for himself and his wife, but so many people, he said, had insisted on having a copy, that there are now forty scattered about the world. At sixty years, Luly ought to have her hand sculptured again, and give it to her grandchildren with the baby's hand of five months old. The baby-hand that had done nothing, and felt only its mother's kiss; the old lady's hand that had exchanged the love-pressure, worn the marriage-ring, closed dead eyes,--done a lifetime's work, in short. The sentiment is rather obvious, but true nevertheless.
Before we went away, Powers took us into a room apart--apparently the secretest room he had--and showed us some tools and machinery, all of his own contrivance and invention. "You see I am a bit of a Yankee," he observed.
This machinery is chiefly to facilitate the process of modelling his works, for--except in portrait-busts--he makes no clay model as other sculptors do, but models directly in the plaster; so that instead of being crumbled, like clay, the original model remains a permanent possession. He has also invented a certain open file, which is of great use in finishing the surface of the marble; and likewise a machine for making these files and for punching holes through iron, and he demonstrated its efficiency by punching a hole through an iron bar, with a force equivalent to ten thousand pounds, by the mere application of a part of his own weight. These inventions, he says, are his amusement, and the bent of his nature towards sculpture must indeed have been strong, to counteract, in an American, such a capacity for the contrivance of steam-engines. . . . .
I had no idea of filling so many pages of this journal with the sayings and characteristics of Mr. Powers, but the man and his talk are fresh, original, and full of bone and muscle, and I enjoy him much.
We now proceeded to the
Raphael grows upon me; several other famous painters--Guido,
for instance--are fading out of my mind.
The copyists of pictures are very numerous, both in the Pitti and Uffizi galleries; and, unlike sculptors, they appear to be on the best of terms with one another, chatting sociably, exchanging friendly criticism, and giving their opinions as to the best mode of attaining the desired effects. Perhaps, as mere copyists, they escape the jealousy that might spring up between rival painters attempting to develop original ideas. Miss Howorth says that the business of copying pictures, especially those of Raphael, is a regular profession, and she thinks it exceedingly obstructive to the progress or existence of a modern school of painting, there being a regular demand and sure sale for all copies of the old masters, at prices proportioned to their merit; whereas the effort to be original insures nothing, except long neglect, at the beginning of a career, and probably ultimate failure, and the necessity of becoming a copyist at last. Some artists employ themselves from youth to age in nothing else but the copying of one single and selfsame picture by Raphael, and grow at last to be perfectly mechanical, making, I suppose, the same identical stroke of the brush in fifty successive pictures.
The weather is very hot now,--hotter in the sunshine, I
think, than a midsummer day usually is in
June 15th.--Yesterday we went to the Uffizi gallery, and, of course, I took the opportunity to look again at the Venus de' Medici after Powers's attack upon her face. Some of the defects he attributed to her I could not see in the statue; for instance, the ear appeared to be in accordance with his own rule, the lowest part of it being about in a straight line with the upper lip. The eyes must be given up, as not, when closely viewed, having the shape, the curve outwards, the formation of the lids, that eyes ought to have; but still, at a proper distance, they seemed to have intelligence in them beneath the shadow cast by the brow. I cannot help thinking that the sculptor intentionally made every feature what it is, and calculated them all with a view to the desired effect. Whatever rules may be transgressed, it is a noble and beautiful face,--more so, perhaps, than if all rules had been obeyed. I wish Powers would do his best to fit the Venus's figure (which he does not deny to be admirable) with a face which he would deem equally admirable and in accordance with the sentiment of the form.
We looked pretty thoroughly through the gallery, and I saw many pictures that impressed me; but among such a multitude, with only one poor mind to take note of them, the stamp of each new impression helps to obliterate a former one. I am sensible, however, that a process is going on, and has been ever since I came to Italy, that puts me in a state to see pictures with less toil, and more pleasure, and makes me more fastidious, yet more sensible of beauty where I saw none before. It is the sign, I presume, of a taste still very defective, that I take singular pleasure in the elaborate imitations of Van Mieris, Gerard Douw, and other old Dutch wizards, who painted such brass pots that you can see your face in them, and such earthen pots that they will surely hold water; and who spent weeks and months in turning a foot or two of canvas into a perfect microscopic illusion of some homely scene. For my part, I wish Raphael had painted the "Transfiguration" in this style, at the same time preserving his breadth and grandeur of design; nor do I believe that there is any real impediment to the combination of the two styles, except that no possible space of human life could suffice to cover a quarter part of the canvas of the "Transfiguration" with such touches as Gerard Douw's. But one feels the vast scope of this wonderful art, when we think of two excellences so far apart as that of this last painter and Raphael. I pause a good while, too, before the Dutch paintings of fruit and flowers, where tulips and roses acquire an immortal bloom, and grapes have kept the freshest juice in them for two or three hundred years. Often, in these pictures, there is a bird's-nest, every straw perfectly represented, and the stray feather, or the down that the mother-bird plucked from her bosom, with the three or four small speckled eggs, that seem as if they might be yet warm. These pretty miracles have their use in assuring us that painters really can do something that takes hold of us in our most matter-of-fact moods; whereas, the merits of the grander style of art may be beyond our ordinary appreciation, and leave us in doubt whether we have not befooled ourselves with a false admiration.
Until we learn to appreciate the cherubs and angels that Raphael scatters through the blessed air, in a picture of the "Nativity," it is not amiss to look at, a Dutch fly settling on a peach, or a bumblebee burying himself in a flower.
It is another token of imperfect taste, no doubt, that queer pictures and absurd pictures remain in my memory, when better ones pass away by the score. There is a picture of Venus, combing her son Cupid's head with a small-tooth comb, and looking with maternal care among his curls; this I shall not forget. Likewise, a picture of a broad, rubicund Judith by Bardone,--a widow of fifty, of an easy, lymphatic, cheerful temperament, who has just killed Holofernes, and is as self-complacent as if she had been carving a goose. What could possibly have stirred up this pudding of a woman (unless it were a pudding-stick) to do such a deed! I looked with much pleasure at an ugly, old, fat, jolly Bacchus, astride on a barrel, by Rubens; the most natural and lifelike representation of a tipsy rotundity of flesh that it is possible to imagine. And sometimes, amid these sensual images, I caught the divine pensiveness of a Madonna's face, by Raphael, or the glory and majesty of the babe Jesus in her arm, with his Father shining through him. This is a sort of revelation, whenever it comes.
This morning, immediately after breakfast, I walked into the
city, meaning to make myself better acquainted with its appearance, and to go
into its various churches; but it soon grew so hot, that I turned homeward
again. The interior of the Duomo was
deliciously cool, to be sure,--cool and dim, after the white-hot sunshine; but an
old woman began to persecute me, so that I came away. A male beggar drove me out of another church;
and I took refuge in the street, where the beggar and I would have been two
cinders together, if we had stood long enough on the sunny sidewalk. After my five summers' experience of
Cherries are very abundant now, and have been so ever since we came here, in the markets and all about the streets. They are of various kinds, some exceedingly large, insomuch that it is almost necessary to disregard the old proverb about making two bites of a cherry. Fresh figs are already spoken of, though I have seen none; but I saw some peaches this morning, looking as if they might be ripe.
June 16th.--Mr. and Mrs. Powers called to see us last evening. Mr. Powers, as usual, was full of talk, and gave utterance to a good many instructive and entertaining ideas.
As one instance of the little influence the religion of the Italians has upon their morals, he told a story of one of his servants, who desired leave to set up a small shrine of the Virgin in their room--a cheap print, or bas-relief, or image, such as are sold everywhere at the shops --and to burn a lamp before it; she engaging, of course, to supply the oil at her own expense. By and by, her oil-flask appeared to possess a miraculous property of replenishing itself, and Mr. Powers took measures to ascertain where the oil came from. It turned out that the servant had all the time been stealing the oil from them, and keeping up her daily sacrifice and worship to the Virgin by this constant theft.
His talk soon turned upon sculpture, and he spoke once more
of the difficulty imposed upon an artist by the necessity of clothing portrait
statues in the modern costume. I find
that he does not approve either of nudity or of the Roman toga for a modern
statue; neither does he think it right to shirk the difficulty--as Chantrey did
in the case of Washington --by enveloping him in a cloak; but acknowledges the
propriety of taking the actual costume of the age and doing his best with
it. He himself did so with his own
Talking of a taste for painting and sculpture, Powers observed that it was something very different and quite apart from the moral sense, and that it was often, perhaps generally, possessed by unprincipled men of ability and cultivation. I have had this perception myself. A genuine love of painting and sculpture, and perhaps of music, seems often to have distinguished men capable of every social crime, and to have formed a fine and hard enamel over their characters. Perhaps it is because such tastes are artificial, the product of cultivation, and, when highly developed, imply a great remove from natural simplicity.
This morning I went with U---- to the Uffizi gallery, and again looked with more or less attention at almost every picture and statue. I saw a little picture of the golden age, by Zucchero, in which the charms of youths and virgins are depicted with a freedom that this iron age can hardly bear to look at. The cabinet of gems happened to be open for the admission of a privileged party, and we likewise went in and saw a brilliant collection of goldsmiths' work, among which, no doubt, were specimens from such hands as Benvenuto Cellini. Little busts with diamond eyes; boxes of gems; cups carved out of precious material; crystal vases, beautifully chased and engraved, and sparkling with jewels; great pearls, in the midst of rubies; opals, rich with all manner of lovely lights. I remember Benvenuto Cellini, in his memoirs, speaks of manufacturing such playthings as these.
I observed another characteristic of the summer streets of
June 17th.--My wife and I went, this morning, to the Academy of Fine Arts, and, on our way thither, went into the Duomo, where we found a deliciously cool twilight, through which shone the mild gleam of the painted windows. I cannot but think it a pity that St. Peter's is not lighted by such windows as these, although I by no means saw the glory in them now that I have spoken of in a record of my former visit. We found out the monument of Giotto, a tablet, and portrait in bas-relief, on the wall, near the entrance of the cathedral, on the right hand; also a representation, in fresco, of a knight on horseback, the memorial of one John Rawkwood, close by the door, to the left. The priests were chanting a service of some kind or other in the choir, terribly inharmonious, and out of tune. . . . .
On reaching the Academy, the soldier or policeman at the entrance directed us into the large hall, the walls of which were covered on both sides with pictures, arranged as nearly as possible in a progressive series, with reference to the date of the painters; so that here the origin and procession of the art may be traced through the course of, at least, two hundred years. Giotto, Cimabue, and others of unfamiliar names to me, are among the earliest; and, except as curiosities, I should never desire to look once at them, nor think of looking twice. They seem to have been executed with great care and conscientiousness, and the heads are often wrought out with minuteness and fidelity, and have so much expression that they tell their own story clearly enough; but it seems not to have been the painter's aim to effect a lifelike illusion, the background and accessories being conventional. The trees are no more like real trees than the feather of a pen, and there is no perspective, the figure of the picture being shadowed forth on a surface of burnished gold. The effect, when these pictures, some of them very large, were new and freshly gilded, must have been exceedingly brilliant, and much resembling, on an immensely larger scale, the rich illuminations in an old monkish missal. In fact, we have not now, in pictorial ornament, anything at all comparable to what their splendor must have been. I was most struck with a picture, by Fabriana Gentile, of the Adoration of the Magi, where the faces and figures have a great deal of life and action, and even grace, and where the jewelled crowns, the rich embroidered robes, and cloth of gold, and all the magnificence of the three kings, are represented with the vividness of the real thing: a gold sword-hilt, for instance, or a pair of gold spurs, being actually embossed on the picture. The effect is very powerful, and though produced in what modern painters would pronounce an unjustifiable way, there is yet pictorial art enough to reconcile it to the spectator's mind. Certainly, the people of the Middle Ages knew better than ourselves what is magnificence, and how to produce it; and what a glorious work must that have been, both in its mere sheen of burnished gold, and in its illuminating art, which shines thus through the gloom of perhaps four centuries.
Fra Angelico is a man much admired by those who have a taste for Pre-Raphaelite painters; and, though I take little or no pleasure in his works, I can see that there is great delicacy of execution in his heads, and that generally he produces such a Christ, and such a Virgin, and such saints, as he could not have foreseen, except in a pure and holy imagination, nor have wrought out without saying a prayer between every two touches of his brush. I might come to like him, in time, if I thought it worth while; but it is enough to have an outside perception of his kind and degree of merit, and so to let him pass into the garret of oblivion, where many things as good, or better, are piled away, that our own age may not stumble over them. Perugino is the first painter whose works seem really worth preserving for the genuine merit that is in them, apart from any quaintness and curiosity of an ancient and new-born art. Probably his religion was more genuine than Raphael's, and therefore the Virgin often revealed herself to him in a loftier and sweeter face of divine womanhood than all the genius of Raphael could produce. There is a Crucifixion by him in this gallery, which made me partly feel as if I were a far-off spectator,--no, I did not mean a Crucifixion, but a picture of Christ dead, lying, with a calm, sweet face, on his mother's knees ["a Pieta"].
The most inadequate and utterly absurd picture here, or in any other gallery, is a head of the Eternal Father, by Carlo Dolce; it looks like a feeble saint, on the eve of martyrdom, and very doubtful how he shall be able to bear it; very finely and prettily painted, nevertheless.
After getting through the principal gallery we went into a smaller room, in which are contained a great many small specimens of the old Tuscan artists, among whom Fra Angelico makes the principal figure. These pictures are all on wood, and seem to have been taken from the shrines and altars of ancient churches; they are predellas and triptychs, or pictures on three folding tablets, shaped quaintly, in Gothic peaks or arches, and still gleaming with backgrounds of antique gold. The wood is much worm-eaten, and the colors have often faded or changed from what the old artists meant then to be; a bright angel darkening into what looks quite as much like the Devil. In one of Fra Angelico's pictures,--a representation of the Last Judgment,--he has tried his saintly hand at making devils indeed, and showing them busily at work, tormenting the poor, damned souls in fifty ghastly ways. Above sits Jesus, with the throng of blessed saints around him, and a flow of tender and powerful love in his own face, that ought to suffice to redeem all the damned, and convert the very fiends, and quench the fires of hell. At any rate, Fra Angelico had a higher conception of his Saviour than Michael Angelo.
June 19th.--This forenoon we have been to the
There were worshippers at some of the shrines, and persons
sitting here and there along the nave, and in the aisles, rapt in devotional
thought, doubtless, and sheltering themselves here from the white sunshine of
the piazzas. In the vicinity of the
choir and the high altar, workmen were busy repairing the church, or perhaps
only making arrangements for celebrating the great festival of
On the left hand of the choir is what is called the old sacristy, with the peculiarities or notabilities of which I am not acquainted. On the right hand is the new sacristy, otherwise called the Capella dei Depositi, or Chapel of the Buried, built by Michael Angelo, to contain two monuments of the Medici family. The interior is of somewhat severe and classic architecture, the walls and pilasters being of dark stone, and surmounted by a dome, beneath which is a row of windows, quite round the building, throwing their light down far beneath, upon niches of white marble. These niches are ranged entirely around the chapel, and might have sufficed to contain more than all the Medici monuments that the world would ever care to have. Only two of these niches are filled, however. In one of them sits Giuliano de' Medici, sculptured by Michael Angelo,--a figure of dignity, which would perhaps be very striking in any other presence than that of the statue which occupies the corresponding niche. At the feet of Giuliano recline two allegorical statues, Day and Night, whose meaning there I do not know, and perhaps Michael Angelo knew as little. As the great sculptor's statues are apt to do, they fling their limbs abroad with adventurous freedom. Below the corresponding niche, on the opposite side of the chapel, recline two similar statues, representing Morning and Evening, sufficiently like Day and Night to be their brother and sister; all, in truth, having sprung from the same father. . . . .
But the statue that sits above these two latter allegories, Morning and Evening, is like no other that ever came from a sculptor's hand. It is the one work worthy of Michael Angelo's reputation, and grand enough to vindicate for him all the genius that the world gave him credit for. And yet it seems a simple thing enough to think of or to execute; merely a sitting figure, the face partly overshadowed by a helmet, one hand supporting the chin, the other resting on the thigh. But after looking at it a little while the spectator ceases to think of it as a marble statue; it comes to life, and you see that the princely figure is brooding over some great design, which, when he has arranged in his own mind, the world will be fain to execute for him. No such grandeur and majesty has elsewhere been put into human shape. It is all a miracle; the deep repose, and the deep life within it. It is as much a miracle to have achieved this as to make a statue that would rise up and walk. The face, when one gazes earnestly into it, beneath the shadow of its helmet, is seen to be calmly sombre; a mood which, I think, is generally that of the rulers of mankind, except in moments of vivid action. This statue is one of the things which I look at with highest enjoyment, but also with grief and impatience, because I feel that I do not come at all which it involves, and that by and by I must go away and leave it forever. How wonderful! To take a block of marble, and convert it wholly into thought, and to do it through all the obstructions and impediments of drapery; for there is nothing nude in this statue but the face and hands. The vest is the costume of Michael Angelo's century. This is what I always thought a sculptor of true genius should be able to do,--to show the man of whatever epoch, nobly and heroically, through the costume which he might actually have worn.
The statue sits within a square niche of white marble, and
completely fills it. It seems to me a
pity that it should be thus confined. At
Communicating with the sacristy is the Medicean Chapel, which was built more than two centuries ago, for the reception of the Holy Sepulchre; arrangements having been made about that time to steal this most sacred relic from the Turks. The design failing, the chapel was converted by Cosmo II. into a place of sepulture for the princes of his family. It is a very grand and solemn edifice, octagonal in shape, with a lofty dome, within which is a series of brilliant frescos, painted not more than thirty years ago. These pictures are the only portion of the adornment of the chapel which interferes with the sombre beauty of the general effect; for though the walls are incrusted, from pavement to dome, with marbles of inestimable cost, and it is a Florentine mosaic on a grander scale than was ever executed elsewhere, the result is not gaudy, as in many of the Roman chapels, but a dark and melancholy richness. The architecture strikes me as extremely fine; each alternate side of the octagon being an arch, rising as high as the cornice of the lofty dome, and forming the frame of a vast niche. All the dead princes, no doubt, according to the general design, were to have been honored with statues within this stately mausoleum; but only two--those of Ferdinand I. and Cosmo II.--seem to have been placed here. They were a bad breed, and few of them deserved any better monument than a dunghill; and yet they have this grand chapel for the family at large, and yonder grand statue for one of its most worthless members. I am glad of it; and as for the statue, Michael Angelo wrought it through the efficacy of a kingly idea, which had no reference to the individual whose name it bears.
In the piazza adjoining the church is a statue of the first Cosmo, the old banker, in Roman costume, seated, and looking like a man fit to hold authority. No, I mistake; the statue is of John de' Medici, the father of Cosmo, and himself no banker, but a soldier.
June 21st.--Yesterday, after dinner, we went, with the two
eldest children, to the
For my part, in this foreign country, I have no objection to
policemen or any other minister of authority; though I remember, in
There is a sheet of water somewhere in the
We continued to ramble through the gardens, in quest of a good spot from which to see the sunset, and at length found a stone bench, on the slope of a hill, whence the entire cloud and sun scenery was fully presented to us. At the foot of the hill were statues, and among them a Pegasus, with wings outspread; and, a little beyond, the garden-front of the Pitti Palace, which looks a little less like a state-prison here, than as it fronts the street. Girls and children, and young men and old, were taking their pleasure in our neighborhood; and, just before us, a lady stood talking with her maid. By and by, we discovered her to be Miss Howorth. There was a misty light, streaming down on the hither side of the ridge of hills, that was rather peculiar; but the most remarkable thing was the shape into which the clouds gathered themselves, after the disappearance of the sun. It was like a tree, with a broad and heavy mass of foliage, spreading high upward on the sky, and a dark and well-defined trunk, which rooted itself on the verge of the horizon.
This morning we went to the
It was useless to try to see the pictures. All the artists engaged in copying laid aside
their brushes; and we looked out into the square before the palace, where a
mighty wind sprang up, and quickly raised a prodigious cloud of dust. It hid the opposite side of the street, and
was carried, in a great dusky whirl, higher than the roofs of the houses,
higher than the top of the
I looked again at Michael Angelo's Fates to-day; but cannot satisfactorily make out what he meant by them. One of them--she who holds the distaff--has her mouth open, as if uttering a cry, and might be fancied to look somewhat irate. The second, who holds the thread, has a pensive air, but is still, I think, pitiless at heart. The third sister looks closely and coldly into the eyes of the second, meanwhile cutting the thread with a pair of shears. Michael Angelo, if I may presume to say so, wished to vary the expression of these three sisters, and give each a different one, but did not see precisely how, inasmuch as all the fatal Three are united, heart and soul, in one purpose. It is a very impressive group. But, as regards the interpretation of this, or of any other profound picture, there are likely to be as many interpretations as there are spectators. It is very curious to read criticisms upon pictures, and upon the same face in a picture, and by men of taste and feeling, and to find what different conclusions they arrive at. Each man interprets the hieroglyphic in his own way; and the painter, perhaps, had a meaning which none of them have reached; or possibly he put forth a riddle, without himself knowing the solution. There is such a necessity, at all events, of helping the painter out with the spectator's own resources of feeling and imagination, that you can never be sure how much of the picture you have yourself made. There is no doubt that the public is, to a certain extent, right and sure of its ground, when it declares, through a series of ages, that a certain picture is a great work. It is so; a great symbol, proceeding out of a great mind; but if it means one thing, it seems to mean a thousand, and, often, opposite things.
June 27th.--I have had a heavy cold and fever almost throughout the past week, and have thereby lost the great Florentine festivity, the Feast of St. John, which took place on Thursday last, with the fireworks and illuminations the evening before, and the races and court ceremonies on the day itself. However, unless it were more characteristic and peculiar than the Carnival, I have not missed anything very valuable.
Mr. Powers called to see me one evening, and poured out, as usual, a stream of talk, both racy and oracular in its character. Speaking of human eyes, he observed that they did not depend for their expression upon color, nor upon any light of the soul beaming through them, nor any glow of the eyeball, nor upon anything but the form and action of the surrounding muscles. He illustrates it by saying, that if the eye of a wolf, or of whatever fiercest animal, could be placed in another setting, it would be found capable of the utmost gentleness of expression. "You yourself," said he, "have a very bright and sharp look sometimes; but it is not in the eye itself." His own eyes, as I could have sworn, were glowing all the time he spoke; and, remembering how many times I have seemed to see eyes glow, and blaze, and flash, and sparkle, and melt, and soften; and how all poetry is illuminated with the light of ladies' eyes; and how many people have been smitten by the lightning of an eye, whether in love or anger, it was difficult to allow that all this subtlest and keenest fire is illusive, not even phosphorescent, and that any other jelly in the same socket would serve as well as the brightest eye. Nevertheless, he must be right; of course he must, and I am rather ashamed ever to have thought otherwise. Where should the light come from? Has a man a flame inside of his head? Does his spirit manifest itself in the semblance of flame? The moment we think of it, the absurdity becomes evident. I am not quite sure, however, that the outer surface of the eye may not reflect more light in some states of feeling than in others; the state of the health, certainly, has an influence of this kind.
I asked Powers what he thought of Michael Angelo's statue of Lorenzo de' Medici. He allowed that its effect was very grand and mysterious; but added that it owed this to a trick,--the effect being produced by the arrangement of the hood, as he called it, or helmet, which throws the upper part of the face into shadow. The niche in which it sits has, I suppose, its part to perform in throwing a still deeper shadow. It is very possible that Michael Angelo may have calculated upon this effect of sombre shadow, and legitimately, I think; but it really is not worthy of Mr. Powers to say that the whole effect of this mighty statue depends, not on the positive efforts of Michael Angelo's chisel, but on the absence of light in a space of a few inches. He wrought the whole statue in harmony with that small part of it which he leaves to the spectator's imagination, and if he had erred at any point, the miracle would have been a failure; so that, working in marble, he has positively reached a degree of excellence above the capability of marble, sculpturing his highest touches upon air and duskiness.
Mr. Powers gave some amusing anecdotes of his early life,
when he was a clerk in a store in
Before he began to work in marble, Powers had greater practice and success in making wax figures, and he produced a work of this kind called "The Infernal Regions," which he seemed to imply had been very famous. He said he once wrought a face in wax which was life itself, having made the eyes on purpose for it, and put in every hair in the eyebrows individually, and finished the whole with similar minuteness; so that, within the distance of a foot or two, it was impossible to tell that the face did not live.
I have hardly ever before felt an impulse to write down a man's conversation as I do that of Mr. Powers. The chief reason is, probably, that it is so possible to do it, his ideas being square, solid, and tangible, and therefore readily grasped and retained. He is a very instructive man, and sweeps one's empty and dead notions out of the way with exceeding vigor; but when you have his ultimate thought and perception, you feel inclined to think and see a little further for yourself. He sees too clearly what is within his range to be aware of any region of mystery beyond. Probably, however, this latter remark does him injustice. I like the man, and am always glad to encounter the mill-stream of his talk. . . . . Yesterday he met me in the street (dressed in his linen blouse and slippers, with a little bit of a sculptor's cap on the side of his head), and gave utterance to a theory of colds, and a dissertation on the bad effects of draughts, whether of cold air or hot, and the dangers of transfusing blood from the veins of one living subject to those of another. On the last topic, he remarked that, if a single particle of air found its way into the veins, along with the transfused blood, it caused convulsions and inevitable death; otherwise the process might be of excellent effect.
Last evening, we went to pass the evening with Miss Blagden,
who inhabits a villa at Bellosguardo, about a mile outside of the walls. The situation is very lofty, and there are
good views from every window of the house, and an especially fine one of
Browning was very genial and full of life, as usual, but his conversation has the effervescent aroma which you cannot catch, even if you get the very words that seem to be imbued with it. He spoke most rapturously of a portrait of Mrs. Browning, which an Italian artist is painting for the wife of an American gentleman, as a present from her husband. The success was already perfect, although there had been only two sittings as yet, and both on the same day; and in this relation, Mr. Browning remarked that P------, the American artist, had had no less than seventy-three sittings of him for a portrait. In the result, every hair and speck of him was represented; yet, as I inferred from what he did not say, this accumulation of minute truths did not, after all, amount to the true whole.
I do not remember much else that Browning said, except a playful abuse of a little King Charles spaniel, named Frolic, Miss Blagden's lap-dog, whose venerable age (he is eleven years old) ought to have pleaded in his behalf. Browning's nonsense is of very genuine and excellent quality, the true babble and effervescence of a bright and powerful mind; and he lets it play among his friends with the faith and simplicity of a child. He must be an amiable man. I should like him much, and should make him like me, if opportunities were favorable.
I conversed principally with Mr. Trollope, the son, I
believe, of the Mrs. Trollope to whom
We had a pleasant cup of tea, and took a moonlight view of
June 28th.--Yesterday afternoon, J----- and I went to a
horse-race, which took place in the Corso and contiguous line of streets, in
further celebration of the Feast of St. John.
A crowd of people was already collected, all along the line of the proposed
race, as early as six o'clock; and there were a great many carriages driving
amid the throng, open barouches mostly, in which the beauty and gentility of
The race, which was the attraction that drew us all together, turned out a very pitiful affair. When we had waited till nearly dusk, the street being thronged quite across, insomuch that it seemed impossible that it should be cleared as a race-course, there came suddenly from every throat a quick, sharp exclamation, combining into a general shout. Immediately the crowd pressed back on each side of the street; a moment afterwards, there was a rapid pattering of hoofs over the earth with which the pavement was strewn, and I saw the head and back of a horse rushing past. A few seconds more, and another horse followed; and at another little interval, a third. This was all that we had waited for; all that I saw, or anybody else, except those who stood on the utmost verge of the course, at the risk of being trampled down and killed. Two men were killed in this way on Thursday, and certainly human life was never spent for a poorer object. The spectators at the windows, to be sure, having the horses in sight for a longer time, might get a little more enjoyment out of the affair. By the by, the most picturesque aspect of the scene was the life given to it by the many faces, some of them fair ones, that looked out from window and balcony, all along the curving line of lofty palaces and edifices, between which the race-course lay; and from nearly every window, and over every balcony, was flung a silken texture, or cloth of brilliant line, or piece of tapestry or carpet, or whatever adornment of the kind could be had, so as to dress up the street in gala attire. But, the Feast of St. John, like the Carnival, is but a meagre semblance of festivity, kept alive factitiously, and dying a lingering death of centuries. It takes the exuberant mind and heart of a people to keep its holidays alive.
I do not know whether there be any populace in
Thus forenoon, my wife and I went to the
The front of the church, the foundation of which was laid six centuries ago, is still waiting for its casing of marbles, and I suppose will wait forever, though a carpenter's staging is now erected before it, as if with the purpose of doing something.
The interior is spacious, the length of the church being
between four and five hundred feet.
There is a nave, roofed with wooden cross-beams, lighted by a
clere-story and supported on each side by seven great pointed arches, which
rest upon octagonal pillars. The octagon
seems to be a favorite shape in
The main pavement of the church is brickwork; but it is inlaid with many sepulchral slabs of marble, on some of which knightly or priestly figures are sculptured in bas-relief. In both of the side aisles there are saintly shrines, alternating with mural monuments, some of which record names as illustrious as any in the world. As you enter, the first monument, on your right is that of Michael Angelo, occupying the ancient burial-site of his family. The general design is a heavy sarcophagus of colored marble, with the figures of Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture as mourners, and Michael Angelo's bust above, the whole assuming a pyramidal form. You pass a shrine, within its framework of marble pillars and a pediment, and come next to Dante's monument, a modern work, with likewise its sarcophagus, and some huge, cold images weeping and sprawling over it, and an unimpressive statue of Dante sitting above.
Another shrine intervenes, and next you see the tomb of Alfieri, erected to his memory by the Countess of Albany, who pays, out of a woman's love, the honor which his country owed him. Her own monument is in one of the chapels of the transept.
Passing the next shrine you see the tomb of Macchiavelli, which, I think, was constructed not many years after his death. The rest of the monuments, on this side of the church, commemorate people of less than world-wide fame; and though the opposite side has likewise a monument alternating with each shrine, I remember only the names of Raphael Morghen and of Galileo. The tomb of the latter is over against that of Michael Angelo, being the first large tomb on the left-hand wall as you enter the church. It has the usual heavy sarcophagus, surmounted by a bust of Galileo, in the habit of his time, and is, of course, duly provided with mourners in the shape of Science or Astronomy, or some such cold-hearted people. I wish every sculptor might be at once imprisoned for life who shall hereafter chisel an allegoric figure; and as for those who have sculptured them heretofore, let them be kept in purgatory till the marble shall have crumbled away. It is especially absurd to assign to this frozen sisterhood of the allegoric family the office of weeping for the dead, inasmuch as they have incomparably less feeling than a lump of ice, which might contrive to shed a tear if the sun shone on it. But they seem to let themselves out, like the hired mourners of an English funeral, for the very reason that, having no interest in the dead person, nor any affections or emotions whatever, it costs them no wear and tear of heart.
All round both transepts of the church there is a series of chapels, into most of which we went, and generally found an inscrutably dark picture over the altar, and often a marble bust or two, or perhaps a mediaeval statue of a saint or a modern monumental bas-relief in marble, as white as new-fallen snow. A chapel of the Bonapartes is here, containing memorials of two female members of the family. In several chapels, moreover, there were some of those distressing frescos, by Giotto, Cimabue, or their compeers, which, whenever I see them,--poor, faded relics, looking as if the Devil had been rubbing and scrubbing them for centuries, in spite against the saints,--my heart sinks and my stomach sickens. There is no other despondency like this; it is a new shade of human misery, akin to the physical disease that comes from dryrot in a wall. These frescos are to a church what dreary, old remembrances are to a mind; the drearier because they were once bright: Hope fading into Disappointment, Joy into Grief, and festal splendor passing into funereal duskiness, and saddening you all the more by the grim identity that you find to exist between gay things and sorrowful ones. Only wait long enough, and they turn out to be the very same.
All the time we were in the church some
great religious ceremony had been going forward; the organ playing and the
white-robed priests bowing, gesticulating, and making Latin prayers at the high
altar, where at least a hundred wax tapers were burning in constellations. Everybody knelt, except ourselves, yet seemed
not to be troubled by the echoes of our passing footsteps, nor to require that
we should pray along with them. They consider us already lost irrevocably, no
doubt, and therefore right enough in taking no heed of their devotions; not but
what we took so much heed, however, as to give the smallest possible
disturbance. By and by we sat down in
the nave of the church till the ceremony should be concluded; and then my wife
left me to go in quest of yet another chapel, where either Cimabue or Giotto,
or both, have left some of their now ghastly decorations. While she was gone I threw my eyes about the
church, and came to the conclusion that, in spite of its antiquity, its size,
its architecture, its painted windows, its tombs of great men, and all the
reverence and interest that broods over them, it is
not an impressive edifice. Any little
Norman church in
Leaving the Santa Croce, we went next in quest of the
After sufficiently examining the court and its antiquities, we ascended a noble staircase that passes, by broad flights and square turns, to the region above the basement. Here the palace is cut up and portioned off into little rooms and passages, and everywhere there were desks, inkstands, and men, with pens in their fingers or behind their ears. We were shown into a little antique chapel, quite covered with frescos in the Giotto style, but painted by a certain Gozzoli. They were in pretty good preservation, and, in fact, I am wrong in comparing them to Giotto's works, inasmuch as there must have been nearly two hundred years between the two artists. The chapel was furnished with curiously carved old chairs, and looked surprisingly venerable within its little precinct.
We were next guided into the grand gallery, a hall of
respectable size, with a frescoed ceiling, on which is represented the blue
sky, and various members of the Medici family ascending through it by the help
of angelic personages, who seem only to have waited for their society to be
perfectly happy. At least, this was the
meaning, so far as I could make it out.
Along one side of the gallery were oil-pictures on looking-glasses,
rather good than otherwise; but
On our way home, and on our own side of the Ponte Vecchio,
we passed the Palazzo Guicciardini, the ancient residence of the historian of
June 30th.--Yesterday, at three o'clock P. M., I went to see
the final horse-race of the Feast of St. John, or rather to see the concourse of
people and grandees whom it brought together.
I took my stand in the vicinity of the spot whence the Grand Duke and
his courtiers view the race, and from this point the scene was rather better
worth looking at than from the street-corners whence I saw it before. The vista of the street, stretching far adown
between two rows of lofty edifices, was really gay and gorgeous with the silks,
damasks, and tapestries of all bright hues, that flaunted from windows and balconies,
whence ladies looked forth and looked down, themselves making the liveliest
part of the show. The whole capacity of
the street swarmed with moving heads, leaving scarce room enough for the
carriages, which, as on Sunday, passed up and down, until the signal for the
race was given. Equipages, too, were
constantly arriving at the door of the building which communicates with the
open loggia, where the Grand Ducal party sit to see and to be seen. Two sentinels were standing at the door, and
presented arms as each courtier or ambassador, or whatever dignity it might be,
alighted. Most of them had on gold-embroidered court-dresses; some of them had
military uniforms, and medals in abundance at the breast; and ladies also came,
looking like heaps of lace and gauze in the carriages, but lightly shaking
themselves into shape as they went up the steps. By and by a trumpet sounded, a drum beat, and
again appeared a succession of half a dozen royal equipages, each with its six
horses, its postilion, coachman, and three footmen, grand with cocked hats and
embroidery; and the gray-headed, bowing Grand Duke and his nodding Grand
Duchess as before. The Noble Guard ranged themselves
on horseback opposite the loggia; but there was no irksome and impertinent show
of ceremony and restraint upon the people. The play-guard of volunteer soldiers, who
escort the President of the
This morning J----- and I have been to the Uffizi gallery. It was his first visit there, and he passed a sweeping condemnation upon everything he saw, except a fly, a snail-shell, a caterpillar, a lemon, a piece of bread, and a wineglass, in some of the Dutch pictures. The Venus de' Medici met with no sort of favor. His feeling of utter distaste reacted upon me, and I was sensible of the same weary lack of appreciation that used to chill me through, in my earlier visits to picture-galleries; the same doubt, moreover, whether we do not bamboozle ourselves in the greater part of the admiration which we learn to bestow. I looked with some pleasure at one of Correggio's Madonnas in the Tribune,--no divine and deep-thoughted mother of the Saviour, but a young woman playing with her first child, as gay and thoughtless as itself. I looked at Michael Angelo's Madonna, in which William Ware saw such prophetic depth of feeling; but I suspect it was one of the many instances in which the spectator sees more than the painter ever dreamed of.
Straying through the city, after leaving the gallery, we
went into the
It appears that a picture of the Virgin used to hang against
one of the pillars of the market-place while it was still a market, and in the
year 1291 several miracles were wrought by it, insomuch that a chapel was
consecrated for it. So many worshippers
came to the shrine that the business of the market was impeded, and ultimately
the Virgin and
July 2d.--We set out yesterday morning to visit the Palazzo
Buonarotti, Michael Angelo's ancestral home. . . . . It is in the Via
Ghibellina, an ordinary-looking, three-story house, with broad-brimmed eaves, a
stuccoed front, and two or three windows painted in fresco, besides the real
ones. Adown the street, there is a glimpse of the hills outside of
We passed into the Piazza of the Grand Duke, and looked into the court of the Palazzo Vecchio, with its beautifully embossed pillars; and, seeing just beyond the court a staircase of broad and easy steps, we ascended it at a venture. Upward and upward we went, flight after flight of stairs, and through passages, till at last we found an official who ushered us into a large saloon. It was the Hall of Audience. Its heavily embossed ceiling, rich with tarnished gold, was a feature of antique magnificence, and the only one that it retained, the floor being paved with tiles and the furniture scanty or none. There were, however, three cabinets standing against the walls, two of which contained very curious and exquisite carvings and cuttings in ivory; some of them in the Chinese style of hollow, concentric balls; others, really beautiful works of art: little crucifixes, statues, saintly and knightly, and cups enriched with delicate bas-reliefs. The custode pointed to a small figure of St. Sebastian, and also to a vase around which the reliefs seemed to assume life. Both these specimens, he said, were by Benvenuto Cellini, and there were many others that might well have been wrought by his famous hand. The third cabinet contained a great number and variety of crucifixes, chalices, and whatever other vessels are needed in altar service, exquisitely carved out of amber. They belong to the chapel of the palace, and into this holy closet we were now conducted. It is large enough to accommodate comfortably perhaps thirty worshippers, and is quite covered with frescos by Ghirlandaio in good preservation, and with remnants enough of gilding and bright color to show how splendid the chapel must have been when the Medicean Grand Dukes used to pray here. The altar is still ready for service, and I am not sure that some of the wax tapers were not burning; but Lorenzo the Magnificent was nowhere to be seen.
The custode now led us back through the Hall of Audience
into a smaller room, hung with pictures chiefly of the Medici and their
connections, among whom was one
There was nothing else to show us, except a very noble and most spacious saloon, lighted by two large windows at each end, coming down level with the floor, and by a row of windows on one side just beneath the cornice. A gilded framework divides the ceiling into squares, circles, and octagons, the compartments of which are filled with pictures in oil; and the walls are covered with immense frescos, representing various battles and triumphs of the Florentines. Statues by Michael Angelo, John of Bologna, and Bandinello, as well historic as ideal, stand round the hall, and it is really a fit theatre for the historic scenes of a country to be acted in. It was built, moreover, with the idea of its being the council-hall of a free people; but our own little Faneuil, which was meant, in all simplicity, to be merely a spot where the townspeople should meet to choose their selectmen, has served the world better in that respect. I wish I had more room to speak of this vast, dusky, historic hall. [This volume of journal closes here.]
July 4th 1858.--Yesterday forenoon we went to see the
This cloister is the reality of what I used to imagine when
I saw the half-ruinous colonnades connected with English cathedrals, or
endeavored to trace out the lines along the broken wall of some old abbey. Not that this extant cloister, still perfect
and in daily use for its original purposes, is nearly so
beautiful as the crumbling ruin which has ceased to be trodden by monkish feet
for more than three centuries. The
After going round three sides, we came to the fourth, formed
by the wall of the church, and heard the voice of a priest behind a curtain
that fell down before a door. Lifting it
aside, we went in, and found ourselves in the ancient chapter-house, a large
interior formed by two great pointed arches crossing one another in a groined
roof. The broad spaces of the walls were
entirely covered with frescos that are rich even now, and must have glowed with
an inexpressible splendor, when fresh from the artists' hands, five hundred
years ago. There is a long period,
during which frescos illuminate a church or a hall in a way that no other
adornment can; when this epoch of brightness is past, they become the dreariest
ghosts of perished magnificence. . . . . This chapter-house is the only part of
the church that is now used for the purposes of public worship. There are
several confessionals, and two chapels or shrines, each with its lighted
tapers. A priest performed mass while we
were there, and several persons, as usual, stepped in to do a little devotion,
either praying on their own account, or uniting with the ceremony that was
going forward. One man was followed by
two little dogs, and in the midst of his prayers, as one of the dogs was
inclined to stray about the church, he kept snapping
his fingers to call him back. The cool,
dusky refreshment of these holy places, affording such a refuge from the hot
noon of the streets and piazzas, probably suggests devotional ideas to the
people, and it may be, when they are praying, they feel a breath of
When we had looked at the old frescos, . . . . we emerged into the cloister again, and thence ventured into a passage which would have led us to the Chiostro Grande, where strangers, and especially ladies, have no right to go. It was a secluded corridor, very neatly kept, bordered with sepulchral monuments, and at the end appeared a vista of cypress-trees, which indeed were but an illusory perspective, being painted in fresco. While we loitered along the sacristan appeared and offered to show us the church, and led us into the transept on the right of the high altar, and ushered us into the sacristy, where we found two artists copying some of Fra Angelico's pictures. These were painted on the three wooden leaves of a triptych, and, as usual, were glorified with a great deal of gilding, so that they seemed to float in the brightness of a heavenly element. Solomon speaks of "apples of gold in pictures of silver." The pictures of Fra Angelico, and other artists of that age, are really pictures of gold; and it is wonderful to see how rich the effect, and how much delicate beauty is attained (by Fra Angelico at least) along with it. His miniature-heads appear to me much more successful than his larger ones. In a monkish point of view, however, the chief value of the triptych of which I am speaking does not lie in the pictures, for they merely serve as the framework of some relics, which are set all round the edges of the three leaves. They consist of little bits and fragments of bones, and of packages carefully tied up in silk, the contents of which are signified in Gothic letters appended to each parcel. The sacred vessels of the church are likewise kept in the sacristy. . . . .
Re-entering the transept, our guide showed us the chapel of the Strozzi family, which is accessible by a flight of steps from the floor of the church. The walls of this chapel are covered with frescos by Orcagna, representing around the altar the Last Judgment, and on one of the walls heaven and the assembly of the blessed, and on the other, of course, hell. I cannot speak as to the truth of the representation; but, at all events, it was purgatory to look at it. . . . .
We next passed into the choir, which occupies the extreme end of the church behind the great square mass of the high altar, and is surrounded with a double row of ancient oaken seats of venerable shape and carving. The choir is illuminated by a threefold Gothic window, full of richly painted glass, worth all the frescos that ever stained a wall or ceiling; but these walls, nevertheless, are adorned with frescos by Ghirlandaio, and it is easy to see must once have made a magnificent appearance. I really was sensible of a sad and ghostly beauty in many of the figures; but all the bloom, the magic of the painter's touch, his topmost art, have long ago been rubbed off, the white plaster showing through the colors in spots, and even in large spaces. Any other sort of ruin acquires a beauty proper to its decay, and often superior to that of its pristine state; but the ruin of a picture, especially of a fresco, is wholly unredeemed; and, moreover, it dies so slowly that many generations are likely to be saddened by it.
We next saw the famous picture of the Virgin by Cimabue, which was deemed a miracle in its day, . . . . and still brightens the sombre walls with the lustre of its gold ground. As to its artistic merits, it seems to me that the babe Jesus has a certain air of state and dignity; but I could see no charm whatever in the broad-faced Virgin, and it would relieve my mind and rejoice my spirit if the picture were borne out of the church in another triumphal procession (like the one which brought it there), and reverently burnt. This should be the final honor paid to all human works that have served a good office in their day, for when their day is over, if still galvanized into false life, they do harm instead of good. . . . . The interior of Santa Maria Novella is spacious and in the Gothic style, though differing from English churches of that order of architecture. It is not now kept open to the public, nor were any of the shrines and chapels, nor even the high altar itself, adorned and lighted for worship. The pictures that decorated the shrines along the side aisles have been removed, leaving bare, blank spaces of brickwork, very dreary and desolate to behold. This is almost worse than a black oil-painting or a faded fresco. The church was much injured by the French, and afterwards by the Austrians, both powers having quartered their troops within the holy precincts. Its old walls, however, are yet stalwart enough to outlast another set of frescos, and to see the beginning and the end of a new school of painting as long-lived as Cimabue's. I should be sorry to have the church go to decay, because it was here that Boccaccio's dames and cavaliers encountered one another, and formed their plan of retreating into the country during the plague. . . . .
At the door we bought a string of beads, with a small crucifix appended, in memory of the place. The beads seem to be of a grayish, pear-shaped seed, and the seller assured us that they were the tears of St. Job. They were cheap, probably because Job shed so many tears in his lifetime.
It being still early in the day, we went to the Uffizi gallery, and after loitering a good while among the pictures, were so fortunate as to find the room of the bronzes open. The first object that attracted us was John of Bologna's Mercury, poising himself on tiptoe, and looking not merely buoyant enough to float, but as if he possessed more than the eagle's power of lofty flight. It seems a wonder that he did not absolutely fling himself into the air when the artist gave him the last touch. No bolder work was ever achieved; nothing so full of life has been done since. I was much interested, too, in the original little wax model, two feet high, of Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus. The wax seems to be laid over a wooden framework, and is but roughly finished off. . . . .
In an adjoining room are innumerable specimens of Roman and Etruscan bronzes, great and small. A bronze Chimera did not strike me as very ingeniously conceived, the goat's head being merely an adjunct, growing out of the back of the monster, without possessing any original and substantive share in its nature. The snake's head is at the end of the tail. The object most really interesting was a Roman eagle, the standard of the Twenty-fourth Legion, about the size of a blackbird.
July 8th.--On the 6th we went to the Church of the Annunziata, which stands in the piazza of the same name. On the corner of the Via dei Servi is the palace which I suppose to be the one that Browning makes the scene of his poem, "The Statue and the Bust," and the statue of Duke Ferdinand sits stately on horseback, with his face turned towards the window, where the lady ought to appear. Neither she nor the bust, however, was visible, at least not to my eyes. The church occupies one side of the piazza, and in front of it, as likewise on the two adjoining sides of the square, there are pillared arcades, constructed by Brunelleschi or his scholars. After passing through these arches, and still before entering the church itself, you come to an ancient cloister, which is now quite enclosed in glass as a means of preserving some frescos of Andrea del Sarto and others, which are considered valuable.
Passing the threshold of the church, we were quite dazzled by the splendor that shone upon us from the ceiling of the nave, the great parallelograms of which, viewed from one end, look as if richly embossed all over with gold. The whole interior, indeed, has an effect of brightness and magnificence, the walls being covered mostly with light-colored marble, into which are inlaid compartments of rarer and richer marbles. The pillars and pilasters, too, are of variegated marbles, with Corinthian capitals, that shine just as brightly as if they were of solid gold, so faithfully have they been gilded and burnished. The pavement is formed of squares of black and white marble. There are no side aisles, but ranges of chapels, with communication from one to another, stand round the whole extent of the nave and choir; all of marble, all decorated with pictures, statues, busts, and mural monuments; all worth, separately, a day's inspection. The high altar is of great beauty and richness, . . . . and also the tomb of John of Bologna in a chapel at the remotest extremity of the church. In this chapel there are some bas-reliefs by him, and also a large crucifix, with a marble Christ upon it. I think there has been no better sculptor since the days of Phidias. . . . .
The church was founded by seven gentlemen of
When we had gone entirely round the church, we came at last to the chapel of the Annunziata, which stands on the floor of the nave, on the left hand as we enter. It is a very beautiful piece of architecture,--a sort of canopy of marble, supported upon pillars; and its magnificence within, in marble and silver, and all manner of holy decoration, is quite indescribable. It was built four hundred years ago, by Pietro de' Medici, and has probably been growing richer ever since. The altar is entirely of silver, richly embossed. As many people were kneeling on the steps before it as could find room, and most of them, when they finished their prayers, ascended the steps, kissed over and over again the margin of the silver altar, laid their foreheads upon it, and then deposited an offering in a box placed upon the altar's top. From the dulness of the chink in the only case when I heard it, I judged it to be a small copper coin.
In the inner part of this chapel is preserved a miraculous picture of the "Santissima Annunziata," painted by angels, and held in such holy repute that forty thousand dollars have lately been expended in providing a new crown for the sacred personage represented. The picture is now veiled behind a curtain; and as it is a fresco, and is not considered to do much credit to the angelic artists, I was well contented not to see it.
We found a side door of the church admitting us into the great cloister, which has a walk of intersecting arches round its four sides, paved with flat tombstones, and broad enough for six people to walk abreast. On the walls, in the semicircles of each successive arch, are frescos representing incidents in the lives of the seven founders of the church, and all the lower part of the wall is incrusted with marble inscriptions to the memory of the dead, and mostly of persons who have died not very long ago. The space enclosed by the cloistered walk, usually made cheerful by green grass, has a pavement of tombstones laid in regular ranges. In the centre is a stone octagonal structure, which at first I supposed to be the tomb of some deceased mediaeval personage; but, on approaching, I found it a well, with its bucket hanging within the curb, and looking as if it were in constant use. The surface of the water lay deep beneath the deepest dust of the dead people, and thence threw up its picture of the sky; but I think it would not be a moderate thirst that would induce me to drink of that well.
On leaving the church we bought a little gilt crucifix. . . . .
On Sunday evening I paid a short visit to Mr. Powers, and, as usual, was entertained and instructed with his conversation. It did not, indeed, turn upon artistical subjects; but the artistic is only one side of his character, and, I think, not the principal side. He might have achieved valuable success as an engineer and mechanician. He gave a dissertation on flying-machines, evidently from his own experience, and came to the conclusion that it is impossible to fly by means of steam or any other motive-power now known to man. No force hitherto attained would suffice to lift the engine which generated it. He appeared to anticipate that flying will be a future mode of locomotion, but not till the moral condition of mankind is so improved as to obviate the bad uses to which the power might be applied. Another topic discussed was a cure for complaints of the chest by the inhalation of nitric acid; and he produced his own apparatus for that purpose, being merely a tube inserted into a bottle containing a small quantity of the acid, just enough to produce the gas for inhalation. He told me, too, a remedy for burns accidentally discovered by himself; viz., to wear wash-leather, or something equivalent, over the burn, and keep it constantly wet. It prevents all pain, and cures by the exclusion of the air. He evidently has a great tendency to empirical remedies, and would have made a natural doctor of mighty potency, possessing the shrewd sense, inventive faculty, and self-reliance that such persons require. It is very singular that there should be an ideal vein in a man of this character.
This morning he called to see me, with intelligence of the
failure of the new attempt to lay the electric cable between
Referring again to General Jackson's intuitions, and to Powers's idea that he was unable to render a reason to himself or others for what he chose to do, I should have thought that this very probably might have been the case, were there not such strong evidence to the contrary. The highest, or perhaps any high administrative ability is intuitive, and precedes argument, and rises above it. It is a revelation of the very thing to be done, and its propriety and necessity are felt so strongly that very likely it cannot be talked about; if the doer can likewise talk, it is an additional and gratuitous faculty, as little to be expected as that a poet should be able to write an explanatory criticism on his own poem. The English overlook this in their scheme of government, which requires that the members of the national executive should be orators, and the readiest and most fluent orators that can be found. The very fact (on which they are selected) that they are men of words makes it improbable that they are likewise men of deeds. And it is only tradition and old custom, founded on an obsolete state of things, that assigns any value to parliamentary oratory. The world has done with it, except as an intellectual pastime. The speeches have no effect till they are converted into newspaper paragraphs; and they had better be composed as such, in the first place, and oratory reserved for churches, courts of law, and public dinner-tables.
July 10th.--My wife and I went yesterday forenoon to see the
A door in the wall of the cloister admitted us into the chapter-house, its interior moderately spacious, with a roof formed by intersecting arches. Three sides of the walls were covered with blessed whitewash; but on the fourth side, opposite to the entrance, was a great fresco of the Crucifixion, by Fra Angelico, surrounded with a border or pictured framework, in which are represented the heads of saints, prophets, and sibyls, as large as life. The cross of the Saviour and those of the thieves were painted against a dark red sky; the figures upon them were lean and attenuated, evidently the vague conceptions of a man who had never seen a naked figure. Beneath, was a multitude of people, most of whom were saints who had lived and been martyred long after the Crucifixion; and some of these had wounds from which gilded rays shone forth, as if the inner glory and blessedness of the holy men blazed through them. It is a very ugly picture, and its ugliness is not that of strength and vigor, but of weakness and incompetency. Fra Angelico should have confined himself to miniature heads, in which his delicacy of touch and minute labor often produce an excellent effect. The custode informed us that there were more frescos of this pious artist in the interior of the convent, into which I might be allowed admittance, but not my wife. I declined seeing them, and heartily thanked heaven for my escape.
Returning through the church, we stopped to look at a shrine on the right of the entrance, where several wax candles were lighted, and the steps of which were crowded with worshippers. It was evidently a spot of special sanctity, and, approaching the steps, we saw, behind a gilded framework of stars and protected by glass, a wooden image of the Saviour, naked, covered with spots of blood, crowned with thorns, and expressing all the human wretchedness that the carver's skill could represent. The whole shrine, within the glass, was hung with offerings, as well of silver and gold as of tinsel and trumpery, and the body of Christ glistened with gold chains and ornaments, and with watches of silver and gold, some of which appeared to be of very old manufacture, and others might be new. Amid all this glitter the face of pain and grief looked forth, not a whit comforted. While we stood there, a woman, who had been praying, arose from her knees and laid an offering of a single flower upon the shrine.
The corresponding arch, on the opposite side of the entrance, contained a wax-work within a large glass case, representing the Nativity. I do not remember how the Blessed Infant looked, but the Virgin was gorgeously dressed in silks, satins, and gauzes, with spangles and ornaments of all kinds, and, I believe, brooches of real diamonds on her bosom. Her attire, judging from its freshness and newness of glitter, might have been put on that very morning.
July 13th.--We went for the second time, this morning, to the Academy of Fine Arts, and I looked pretty thoroughly at the Pre-Raphaelite pictures, few of which are really worth looking at nowadays. Cimabue and Giotto might certainly be dismissed, henceforth and forever, without any detriment to the cause of good art. There is what seems to me a better picture than either of these has produced, by Bonamico Buffalmacco, an artist of about their date or not long after. The first real picture in the series is the "Adoration of the Magi," by Gentile da Fabriano, a really splendid work in all senses, with noble and beautiful figures in it, and a crowd of personages, managed with great skill. Three pictures by Perugino are the only other ones I cared to look at. In one of these, the face of the Virgin who holds the dead Christ on her knees has a deeper expression of woe than can ever have been painted since. After Perugino the pictures cease to be interesting; the art came forward with rapid strides, but the painters and their productions do not take nearly so much hold of the spectator as before. They all paint better than Giotto and Cimabue,--in some respects better than Perugino; but they paint in vain, probably because they were not nearly so much in earnest, and meant far less, though possessing the dexterity to express far more. Andrea del Sarto appears to have been a good painter, yet I always turn away readily from his pictures. I looked again, and for a good while, at Carlo Dolce's portrait of the Eternal Father, for it is a miracle and masterpiece of absurdity, and almost equally a miracle of pictorial art. It is the All-powerless, a fair-haired, soft, consumptive deity, with a mouth that has fallen open through very weakness. He holds one hand on his stomach, as if the wickedness and wretchedness of mankind made him qualmish; and he is looking down out of Heaven with an expression of pitiable appeal, or as if seeking somewhere for assistance in his heavy task of ruling the universe. You might fancy such a being falling on his knees before a strong-willed man, and beseeching him to take the reins of omnipotence out of his hands. No wonder that wrong gets the better of right, and that good and ill are confounded, if the Supreme Head were as here depicted; for I never saw, and nobody else ever saw, so perfect a representation of a person burdened with a task infinitely above his strength. If Carlo Dolce had been wicked enough to know what he was doing, the picture would have been most blasphemous,--a satire, in the very person of the Almighty, against all incompetent rulers, and against the rickety machine and crazy action of the universe. Heaven forgive me for such thoughts as this picture has suggested! It must be added that the great original defect in the character as here represented is an easy good-nature. I wonder what Michael Angelo would have said to this painting.
In the large, enclosed court connected with the Academy there are a number of statues, bas-reliefs, and casts, and what was especially interesting, the vague and rude commencement of a statue of St. Matthew by Michael Angelo. The conceptions of this great sculptor were so godlike that he seems to have been discontented at not likewise possessing the godlike attribute of creating and embodying them with an instantaneous thought, and therefore we often find sculptures from his hand left at the critical point of their struggle to get out of the marble. The statue of St. Matthew looks like the antediluvian fossil of a human being of an epoch when humanity was mightier and more majestic than now, long ago imprisoned in stone, and half uncovered again.
July 16th.--We went yesterday forenoon to see the Bargello. I do not know anything more picturesque in Florence than the great interior court of this ancient Palace of the Podesta, with the lofty height of the edifice looking down into the enclosed space, dark and stern, and the armorial bearings of a long succession of magistrates carved in stone upon the walls, a garland, as it were, of these Gothic devices extending quite round the court. The best feature of the whole is the broad stone staircase, with its heavy balustrade, ascending externally from the court to the iron-grated door in the second story. We passed the sentinels under the lofty archway that communicates with the street, and went up the stairs without being questioned or impeded. At the iron-grated door, however, we were met by two officials in uniform, who courteously informed us that there was nothing to be exhibited in the Bargello except an old chapel containing some frescos by Giotto, and that these could only be seen by making a previous appointment with the custode, he not being constantly on hand. I was not sorry to escape the frescos, though one of them is a portrait of Dante.
We next went to the Church of the Badia, which is built in the form of a Greek cross, with a flat roof embossed and once splendid with now tarnished gold. The pavement is of brick, and the walls of dark stone, similar to that of the interior of the cathedral (pietra serena), and there being, according to Florentine custom, but little light, the effect was sombre, though the cool gloomy dusk was refreshing after the hot turmoil and dazzle of the adjacent street. Here we found three or four Gothic tombs, with figures of the deceased persons stretched in marble slumber upon them. There were likewise a picture or two, which it was impossible to see; indeed, I have hardly ever met with a picture in a church that was not utterly wasted and thrown away in the deep shadows of the chapel it was meant to adorn. If there is the remotest chance of its being seen, the sacristan hangs a curtain before it for the sake of his fee for withdrawing it. In the chapel of the Bianco family we saw (if it could be called seeing) what is considered the finest oil-painting of Fra Filippo Lippi. It was evidently hung with reference to a lofty window on the other side of the church, whence sufficient light might fall upon it to show a picture so vividly painted as this is, and as most of Fra Filippo Lippi's are. The window was curtained, however, and the chapel so dusky that I could make out nothing.
Several persons came in to say their prayers during the little time that we remained in the church, and as we came out we passed a good woman who sat knitting in the coolness of the vestibule, which was lined with mural tombstones. Probably she spends the day thus, keeping up the little industry of her fingers, slipping into the church to pray whenever a devotional impulse swells into her heart, and asking an alms as often as she sees a person of charitable aspect.
From the church we went to the Uffizi gallery, and reinspected the greater part of it pretty faithfully. We had the good fortune, too, again to get admittance into the cabinet of bronzes, where we admired anew the wonderful airiness of John of Bologna's Mercury, which, as I now observed, rests on nothing substantial, but on the breath of a zephyr beneath him. We also saw a bronze bust of one of the Medici by Benvenuto Cellini, and a thousand other things the curiosity of which is overlaid by their multitude. The Roman eagle, which I have recorded to be about the size of a blackbird, I now saw to be as large as a pigeon.
On our way towards the door of the gallery, at our departure, we saw the cabinet of gems open, and again feasted our eyes with its concentrated brilliancies and magnificences. Among them were two crystal cups, with engraved devices, and covers of enamelled gold, wrought by Benvenuto Cellini, and wonderfully beautiful. But it is idle to mention one or two things, when all are so beautiful and curious; idle, too, because language is not burnished gold, with here and there a brighter word flashing like a diamond; and therefore no amount of talk will give the slightest idea of one of these elaborate handiworks.
July 27th.--I seldom go out nowadays, having already seen Florence tolerably well, and the streets being very hot, and myself having been engaged in sketching out a romance [The Marble Faun.--ED.], which whether it will ever come to anything is a point yet to be decided. At any rate, it leaves me little heart for journalizing and describing new things; and six months of uninterrupted monotony would be more valuable to me just now, than the most brilliant succession of novelties.
Yesterday I spent a good deal of time in watching the setting out of a wedding party from our door; the bride being the daughter of an English lady, the Countess of ------. After all, there was nothing very characteristic. The bridegroom is a young man of English birth, son of the Countess of St. G------, who inhabits the third piano of this Casa del Bello. The very curious part of the spectacle was the swarm of beggars who haunted the street all day; the most wretched mob conceivable, chiefly women, with a few blind people, and some old men and boys. Among these the bridal party distributed their beneficence in the shape of some handfuls of copper, with here and there a half-paul intermixed; whereupon the whole wretched mob flung themselves in a heap upon the pavement, struggling, lighting, tumbling one over another, and then looking up to the windows with petitionary gestures for more and more, and still for more. Doubtless, they had need enough, for they looked thin, sickly, ill-fed, and the women ugly to the last degree. The wedding party had a breakfast above stairs, which lasted till four o'clock, and then the bridegroom took his bride in a barouche and pair, which was already crammed with his own luggage and hers. . . . . He was a well-looking young man enough, in a uniform of French gray with silver epaulets; more agreeable in aspect than his bride, who, I think, will have the upper hand in their domestic life. I observed that, on getting into the barouche, he sat down on her dress, as he could not well help doing, and received a slight reprimand in consequence. After their departure, the wedding guests took their leave; the most noteworthy person being the Pope's Nuncio (the young man being son of the Pope's Chamberlain, and one of the Grand Duke's Noble Guard), an ecclesiastical personage in purple stockings, attended by two priests, all of whom got into a coach, the driver and footmen of which wore gold-laced cocked hats and other splendors.
To-day I paid a short visit to the gallery of the
July 28th.--Last evening we went to the Powers's, and sat
with them on the terrace, at the top of the house, till nearly ten
o'clock. It was a delightful, calm,
summer evening, and we were elevated far above all the adjacent roofs, and had
a prospect of the greater part of Florence and its towers, and the surrounding
hills, while directly beneath us rose the trees of a garden, and they hardly
sent their summits higher than we sat. At a little distance, with only a house
or two between, was a theatre in full action, the
Teatro Goldoni, which is an open amphitheatre, in the ancient fashion, without
any roof. We could see the upper part of
the proscenium, and, had we been a little nearer, might have seen the whole
performance, as did several boys who crept along the tops of the surrounding
houses. As it was, we heard the music
and the applause, and now and then an actor's stentorian tones, when we chose
to listen. Mrs. P------ and my wife,
U---- and Master Bob, sat in a group together, and chatted in one corner of our
aerial drawing-room, while Mr. Powers and myself leaned
against the parapet, and talked of innumerable things. When the clocks struck
the hour, or the bells rang from the steeples, as they are continually doing, I
spoke of the sweetness of the
We talked, furthermore, about instinct and reason, and whether the brute creation have souls, and, if they have none, how justice is to be done them for their sufferings here; and Mr. Powers came finally to the conclusion that brutes suffer only in appearance, and that God enjoys for them all that they seem to enjoy, and that man is the only intelligent and sentient being. We reasoned high about other states of being; and I suggested the possibility that there might be beings inhabiting this earth, contemporaneously with us, and close beside us, but of whose existence and whereabout we could have no perception, nor they of ours, because we are endowed with different sets of senses; for certainly it was in God's power to create beings who should communicate with nature by innumerable other senses than those few which we possess. Mr. Powers gave hospitable reception to this idea, and said that it had occurred to himself; and he has evidently thought much and earnestly about such matters; but is apt to let his idea crystallize into a theory, before he can have sufficient data for it. He is a Swedenborgian in faith.
The moon had risen behind the trees, while we were talking, and Powers intimated his idea that beings analogous to men--men in everything except the modifications necessary to adapt them to their physical circumstances--inhabited the planets, and peopled them with beautiful shapes. Each planet, however, must have its own standard of the beautiful, I suppose; and probably his sculptor's eye would not see much to admire in the proportions of an inhabitant of Saturn.
The atmosphere of
VILLA MONTANTO. MONTE
August 2d.--We had grown weary of the heat of
By and by mamma's carriage came along the dusty road, and passed through the iron gateway, which we had left open for her reception. We shouted down to her and R-----, and they waved their handkerchiefs upward to us; and, on my way down, I met R----- and the servant coming up through the ghostly rooms.
The rest of the day we spent mostly in exploring the premises. The house itself is of almost bewildering extent, insomuch that we might each of us have a suite of rooms individually. I have established myself on the ground-floor, where I have a dressing-room, a large vaulted saloon, hung with yellow damask, and a square writing-study, the walls and ceilings of the two latter apartments being ornamented with angels and cherubs aloft in fresco, and with temples, statues, vases, broken columns, peacocks, parrots, vines, and sunflowers below. I know not how many more saloons, anterooms, and sleeping-chambers there are on this same basement story, besides an equal number over them, and a great subterranean establishment. I saw some immense jars there, which I suppose were intended to hold oil; and iron kettles, for what purpose I cannot tell. There is also a chapel in the house, but it is locked up, and we cannot yet with certainty find the door of it, nor even, in this great wilderness of a house, decide absolutely what space the holy precincts occupy. Adjoining U----'s chamber, which is in the tower, there is a little oratory, hung round with sacred prints of very ancient date, and with crucifixes, holy-water vases, and other consecrated things; and here, within a glass case, there is the representation of an undraped little boy in wax, very prettily modelled, and holding up a heart that looks like a bit of red sealing-wax. If I had found him anywhere else I should have taken him for Cupid; but, being in an oratory, I presume him to have some religious signification. In the servants' room a crucifix hung on one side of the bed, and a little vase for holy water, now overgrown with a cobweb, on the other; and, no doubt, all the other sleeping-apartments would have been equally well provided, only that their occupants were to be heretics.
The lower floor of the house is tolerably furnished, and
looks cheerful with its frescos, although the bare pavements in every room give
an impression of discomfort. But carpets
are universally taken up in
The grounds immediately around the house are laid out in
gravel-walks, and ornamented with shrubbery, and with what ought to be a grassy
lawn; but the Italian sun is quite as little favorable to beauty of that kind
as our own. I have enjoyed the luxury,
however, almost for the first time since I left my hill-top at the Wayside, of
flinging myself at full length on the ground without any fear of catching
Last night it was really a work of time and toil to go about
making our defensive preparations for the night; first closing the iron gate, then the ponderous and complicated fastenings of
the house door, then the separate barricadoes of each iron-barred window on the
lower floor, with a somewhat slighter arrangement above. There are bolts and shutters, however, for
every window in the house, and I suppose it would not be amiss to put them all
in use. Our garrison is so small that we
must depend more upon the strength of our fortifications than upon our own
active efforts in case of an attack. In
It deserves to be recorded that the Count Montanto, a
nobleman, and seemingly a man of property, should deem it worth while to let
his country seat, and reside during the hot months in his palace in the city,
for the consideration of a comparatively small sum a month. He seems to contemplate returning hither for
the autumn and winter, when the situation must be very windy and bleak, and the
cold death-like in these great halls; and then, it is to be supposed, he will
let his palace in town. The Count,
through the agency of his son, bargained very stiffly for, and finally
obtained, three dollars in addition to the sum which we at first offered
him. This indicates that even a little
money is still a matter of great moment in
August 3d.--Yesterday afternoon William Story called on me,
he being on a day or two's excursion from Siena, where he is spending the
summer with his family. He was very
entertaining and conversative, as usual, and said, in reply to my question
whether he were not anxious to return to Cleopatra, that he had already sketched
out another subject for sculpture, which would employ him during next
winter. He told me, what I was glad to
hear, that his sketches of Italian life, intended for the "Atlantic
Monthly," and supposed to be lost, have been recovered. Speaking of the
superstitiousness of the Italians, he said that they universally believe in the
influence of the evil eye. The evil
influence is supposed not to be dependent on the will of the possessor of the
evil eye; on the contrary, the persons to whom he wishes well are the very ones
to suffer by it. It is oftener found in
monks than in any other class of people; and on meeting a monk, and
encountering his eye, an Italian usually makes a defensive sign by putting both
hands behind him, with the forefingers and little fingers extended, although it
is a controverted point whether it be not more efficacious to extend the hand
with its outspread fingers towards the suspected person. It is considered an evil omen to meet a monk
on first going out for the day. The evil eye may be classified with the
phenomena of mesmerism. The Italians,
especially the Neapolitans, very generally wear amulets. Pio Nono, perhaps as being the chief of all
monks and other religious people, is supposed to have an evil eye of tenfold
malignancy; and its effect has been seen in the ruin of all schemes for the
public good so soon as they are favored by him. When the pillar in the Piazza de' Spagna,
commemorative of his dogma of the Immaculate Conception, was to be erected, the
people of Rome refused to be present, or to have anything to do with it, unless
the pope promised to abstain from interference.
His Holiness did promise, but so far broke his word as to be present one
day while it was being erected, and on that day a man was killed. A little while ago there was a Lord Clifford,
an English Catholic nobleman, residing in
I walked into town with J------ this morning, and, meeting a monk in the Via Furnace, I thought it no more than reasonable, as the good father fixed his eyes on me, to provide against the worst by putting both hands behind me, with the forefingers and little fingers stuck out.
In speaking of the little oratory connected with U----'s chamber, I forgot to mention the most remarkable object in it. It is a skull, the size of life (or death). . . . . This part of the house must be very old, probably coeval with the tower. The ceiling of U----'s apartment is vaulted with intersecting arches; and adjoining it is a very large saloon, likewise with a vaulted and groined ceiling, and having a cushioned divan running all round the walls. The windows of these rooms look out on the Val d' Arno.
The apartment above this saloon is of the same size, and
hung with engraved portraits, printed on large sheets by the score and hundred
together, and enclosed in wooden frames.
They comprise the whole series of Roman emperors, the succession of
popes, the kings of Europe, the doges of
August 4th.--We ascended our tower yesterday afternoon to
see the sunset. In my first sketch of the Val d' Arno I said that the
August 12th.--We drove into town yesterday afternoon, with
Miss Blagden, to call on Mr. Kirkup, an old Englishman who has resided a great
many years in Florence. He is noted as
an antiquarian, and has the reputation of being a necromancer, not
undeservedly, as he is deeply interested in spirit-rappings, and holds
converse, through a medium, with dead poets and emperors. He lives in an old house, formerly a
residence of the Knights Templars, hanging over the
He ushered us through two or three large rooms, dark, dusty, hung with antique-looking pictures, and lined with bookcases containing, I doubt not, a very curious library. Indeed, he directed my attention to one case, and said that he had collected those works, in former days, merely for the sake of laughing at them. They were books of magic and occult sciences. What he seemed really to value, however, were some manuscript copies of Dante, of which he showed us two: one, a folio on parchment, beautifully written in German text, the letters as clear and accurately cut as printed type; the other a small volume, fit, as Mr. Kirkup said, to be carried in a capacious mediaeval sleeve. This also was on vellum, and as elegantly executed as the larger one; but the larger had beautiful illuminations, the vermilion and gold of which looked as brilliant now as they did five centuries ago. Both of these books were written early in the fourteenth century. Mr. Kirkup has also a plaster cast of Dante's face, which he believes to be the original one taken from his face after death; and he has likewise his own accurate tracing from Giotto's fresco of Dante in the chapel of the Bargello. This fresco was discovered through Mr. Kirkup's means, and the tracing is particularly valuable, because the original has been almost destroyed by rough usage in drawing out a nail that had been driven into the eye. It represents the profile of a youthful but melancholy face, and has the general outline of Dante's features in other portraits.
Dante has held frequent communications with Mr. Kirkup through a medium, the poet being described by the medium as wearing the same dress seen in the youthful portrait, but as hearing more resemblance to the cast taken from his dead face than to the picture from his youthful one.
There was a very good picture of Savonarola in one of the rooms, and many other portraits, paintings, and drawings, some of them ancient, and others the work of Mr. Kirkup himself. He has the torn fragment of an exquisite drawing of a nude figure by Rubens, and a portfolio of other curious drawings. And besides books and works of art, he has no end of antique knick-knackeries, none of which we had any time to look at; among others some instruments with which nuns used to torture themselves in their convents by way of penance. But the greatest curiosity of all, and no antiquity, was a pale, large-eyed little girl, about four years old, who followed the conjurer's footsteps wherever he went. She was the brightest and merriest little thing in the world, and frisked through those shadowy old chambers, among the dead people's trumpery, as gayly as a butterfly flits among flowers and sunshine.
The child's mother was a beautiful girl named
The child inherits her mother's gift of communication with
the spiritual world, so that the conjurer can still talk with
The child looks pale, and no wonder, seldom or never stirring out of that old palace, or away from the river atmosphere. Miss Blagden advised Mr. Kirkup to go with her to the seaside or into the country, and he did not deny that it might do her good, but seemed to be hampered by an old man's sluggishness and dislike of change. I think he will not live a great while, for he seems very frail. When he dies the little girl will inherit what property he may leave. A lady, Catharine Fleeting, an Englishwoman, and a friend of Mr. Kirkup, has engaged to take her in charge. She followed us merrily to the door, and so did the Persian kitten, and Mr. Kirkup shook hands with us, over and over again, with vivacious courtesy, his manner having been characterized by a great deal of briskness throughout the interview. He expressed himself delighted to have met one (whose books he had read), and said that the day would be a memorable one to him,--which I did not in the least believe.
Mr. Kirkup is an intimate friend of Trelawny, author of "Adventures of a Younger Son," and, long ago, the latter promised him that, if he ever came into possession of the family estate, he would divide it with him. Trelawny did really succeed to the estate, and lost no time in forwarding to his friend the legal documents, entitling him to half of the property. But Mr. Kirkup declined the gift, as he himself was not destitute, and Trelawny had a brother. There were two pictures of Trelawny in the saloons, one a slight sketch on the wall, the other a half-length portrait in a Turkish dress; both handsome, but indicating no very amiable character. It is not easy to forgive Trelawny for uncovering dead Byron's limbs, and telling that terrible story about them,--equally disgraceful to himself, be it truth or a lie.
It seems that
The small manuscript copy of Dante which he showed me was
written by a Florentine gentleman of the fourteenth century, one of whose
ancestors the poet had met and talked with in
August 19th.--Here is a good Italian incident, which I find
in Valery. Andrea del Castagno was a painter in
September 1st.--Few things journalizable have happened
during the last month, because
Last Saturday, August 28th, we went to take tea at Miss Blagden's, who has a weekly reception on that evening. We found Mr. Powers there, and by and by Mr. Boott and Mr. Trollope came in. Miss ------ has lately been exercising her faculties as a spiritual writing-medium; and, the conversation turning on that subject, Mr. Powers related some things that he had witnessed through the agency of Mr. Home, who had held a session or two at his house. He described the apparition of two mysterious hands from beneath a table round which the party were seated. These hands purported to belong to the aunt of the Countess Cotterel, who was present, and were a pair of thin, delicate, aged, lady-like hands and arms, appearing at the edge of the table, and terminating at the elbow in a sort of white mist. One of the hands took up a fan and began to use it. The countess then said, "Fan yourself as you used to do, dear aunt"; and forthwith the hands waved the fan back and forth in a peculiar manner, which the countess recognized as the manner of her dead aunt. The spirit was then requested to fan each member of the party; and accordingly, each separate individual round the table was fanned in turn, and felt the breeze sensibly upon his face. Finally, the hands sank beneath the table, I believe Mr. Powers said; but I am not quite sure that they did not melt into the air. During this apparition, Mr. Home sat at the table, but not in such a position or within such distance that he could have put out or managed the spectral hands; and of this Mr. Powers satisfied himself by taking precisely the same position after the party had retired. Mr. Powers did not feel the hands at this time, but he afterwards felt the touch of infant hands, which were at the time invisible. He told of many of the wonders, which seem to have as much right to be set down as facts as anything else that depends on human testimony. For example, Mr. K------, one of the party, gave a sudden start and exclamation. He had felt on his knee a certain token, which could have been given him only by a friend, long ago in his grave. Mr. Powers inquired what was the last thing that had been given as a present to a deceased child; and suddenly both he and his wife felt a prick as of some sharp instrument, on their knees. The present had been a penknife. I have forgotten other incidents quite as striking as these; but, with the exception of the spirit-hands, they seemed to be akin to those that have been produced by mesmerism, returning the inquirer's thoughts and veiled recollections to himself, as answers to his queries. The hands are certainly an inexplicable phenomenon. Of course, they are not portions of a dead body, nor any other kind of substance; they are impressions on the two senses, sight and touch, but how produced I cannot tell. Even admitting their appearance,--and certainly I do admit it as freely and fully as if I had seen them myself,--there is no need of supposing them to come from the world of departed spirits.
Powers seems to put entire faith in the verity of spiritual communications, while acknowledging the difficulty of identifying spirits as being what they pretend to be. He is a Swedenborgian, and so far prepared to put faith in many of these phenomena. As for Home, Powers gives a decided opinion that he is a knave, but thinks him so organized, nevertheless, as to be a particularly good medium for spiritual communications. Spirits, I suppose, like earthly people, are obliged to use such instruments as will answer their purposes; but rather than receive a message from a dead friend through the organism of a rogue or charlatan, methinks I would choose to wait till we meet. But what most astonishes me is the indifference with which I listen to these marvels. They throw old ghost stories quite into the shade; they bring the whole world of spirits down amongst us, visibly and audibly; they are absolutely proved to be sober facts by evidence that would satisfy us of any other alleged realities; and yet I cannot force my mind to interest myself in them. They are facts to my understanding, which, it might have been anticipated, would have been the last to acknowledge them; but they seem not to be facts to my intuitions and deeper perceptions. My inner soul does not in the least admit them; there is a mistake somewhere. So idle and empty do I feel these stories to be, that I hesitated long whether or no to give up a few pages of this not very important journal to the record of them.
We have had written communications through Miss ------ with several spirits; my wife's father, mother, two brothers, and a sister, who died long ago, in infancy; a certain Mary Hall, who announces herself as the guardian spirit of Miss ------; and, queerest of all, a Mary Runnel, who seems to be a wandering spirit, having relations with nobody, but thrusts her finger into everybody's affairs. My wife's mother is the principal communicant; she expresses strong affection, and rejoices at the opportunity of conversing with her daughter. She often says very pretty things; for instance, in a dissertation upon heavenly music; but there is a lack of substance in her talk, a want of gripe, a delusive show, a sentimental surface, with no bottom beneath it. The same sort of thing has struck me in all the poetry and prose that I have read from spiritual sources. I should judge that these effusions emanated from earthly minds, but had undergone some process that had deprived them of solidity and warmth. In the communications between my wife and her mother, I cannot help thinking that (Miss ------ being unconsciously in a mesmeric state) all the responses are conveyed to her fingers from my wife's mind. . . . .
We have tried the spirits by various test questions, on every one of which they have failed egregiously. Here, however, the aforesaid Mary Runnel comes into play. The other spirits have told us that the veracity of this spirit is not to be depended upon; and so, whenever it is possible, poor Mary Runnel is thrust forward to bear the odium of every mistake or falsehood. They have avowed themselves responsible for all statements signed by themselves, and have thereby brought themselves into more than one inextricable dilemma; but it is very funny, where a response or a matter of fact has not been thus certified, how invariably Mary Runnel is made to assume the discredit of it, on its turning out to be false. It is the most ingenious arrangement that could possibly have been contrived; and somehow or other, the pranks of this lying spirit give a reality to the conversations which the more respectable ghosts quite fail in imparting.
The whole matter seems to me a sort of dreaming awake. It resembles a dream, in that the whole material is, from the first, in the dreamer's mind, though concealed at various depths below the surface; the dead appear alive, as they always do in dreams; unexpected combinations occur, as continually in dreams; the mind speaks through the various persons of the drama, and sometimes astonishes itself with its own wit, wisdom, and eloquence, as often in dreams; but, in both cases, the intellectual manifestations are really of a very flimsy texture. Mary Runnel is the only personage who does not come evidently from dream-land; and she, I think, represents that lurking scepticism, that sense of unreality, of which we are often conscious, amid the most vivid phantasmagoria of a dream. I should be glad to believe in the genuineness of these spirits, if I could; but the above is the conclusion to which my soberest thoughts tend. There remains, of course, a great deal for which I cannot account, and I cannot sufficiently wonder at the pigheadedness both of metaphysicians and physiologists, in not accepting the phenomena, so far as to make them the subject of investigation.
In writing the communications, Miss ------ holds the pencil rather loosely between her fingers; it moves rapidly, and with equal facility whether she fixes her eyes on the paper or not. The handwriting has far more freedom than her own. At the conclusion of a sentence, the pencil lays itself down. She sometimes has a perception of each word before it is written; at other times, she is quite unconscious what is to come next. Her integrity is absolutely indubitable, and she herself totally disbelieves in the spiritual authenticity of what is communicated through her medium.
September 3d.--We walked into Florence yesterday, betimes
after breakfast, it being comfortably cool, and a gray, English sky; though,
indeed, the clouds had a tendency to mass themselves more than they do on an overcast
English day. We found it warmer in
We went to the Uffizi gallery, the whole of which with its contents is now familiar to us, except the room containing drawings; and our to-day's visit was especially to them. The door giving admittance to them is the very last in the gallery; and the rooms, three in number, are, I should judge, over the Loggia de' Lanzi, looking on the Grand Ducal Piazza. The drawings hang on the walls, framed and glazed; and number, perhaps, from one to two hundred in each room; but this is only a small portion of the collection, which amounts, it is said, to twenty thousand, and is reposited in portfolios. The sketches on the walls are changed, from time to time, so as to exhibit all the most interesting ones in turn. Their whole charm is artistic, imaginative, and intellectual, and in no degree of the upholstery kind; their outward presentment being, in general, a design hastily shadowed out, by means of colored crayons, on tinted paper, or perhaps scratched rudely in pen and ink; or drawn in pencil or charcoal, and half rubbed out; very rough things, indeed, in many instances, and the more interesting on that account, because it seems as if the artist had bestirred himself to catch the first glimpse of an image that did but reveal itself and vanish. The sheets, or sometimes scraps of paper, on which they are drawn, are discolored with age, creased, soiled; but yet you are magnetized by the hand of Raphael, Michael Angelo, Leonardo, or whoever may have jotted down those rough-looking master-touches. They certainly possess a charm that is lost in the finished picture; and I was more sensible of forecasting thought, skill, and prophetic design, in these sketches than in the most consummate works that have been elaborated from them. There is something more divine in these; for I suppose the first idea of a picture is real inspiration, and all the subsequent elaboration of the master serves but to cover up the celestial germ with something that belongs to himself. At any rate, the first sketch is the more suggestive, and sets the spectator's imagination at work; whereas the picture, if a good one, leaves him nothing to do; if bad, it confuses, stupefies, disenchants, and disheartens him. First thoughts have an aroma and fragrance in them, that they do not lose in three hundred years; for so old, and a good deal more, are some of these sketches.
None interested me more than some drawings, on separate pieces
of paper, by Perugino, for his picture of the mother and friends of Jesus round
his dead body, now at the
There were several designs by Michael Angelo, none of which
made much impression on me; the most striking was a very ugly demon, afterwards
painted in the Sistine Chapel. Raphael
shows several sketches of Madonnas,--one of which has flowered into the Grand
Duke's especial Madonna at the
We looked at few other things in the gallery; and, indeed, it was not one of the days when works of art find me impressible. We stopped a little while in the Tribune, but the Venus de' Medici seemed to me to-day little more than any other piece of yellowish white marble. How strange that a goddess should stand before us absolutely unrecognized, even when we know by previous revelations that she is nothing short of divine! It is also strange that, unless when one feels the ideal charm of a statue, it becomes one of the most tedious and irksome things in the world. Either it must be a celestial thing or an old lump of stone, dusty and time-soiled, and tiring out your patience with eternally looking just the same. Once in a while you penetrate through the crust of the old sameness, and see the statue forever new and immortally young.
Leaving the gallery we walked towards the Duomo, and on our
way stopped to look at the beautiful Gothic niches hollowed into the exterior
walls of the
We stood at the base of the Campanile, and looked at the bas-reliefs which wreathe it round; and, above them, a row of statues; and from bottom to top a marvellous minuteness of inlaid marbles, filling up the vast and beautiful design of this heaven-aspiring tower. Looking upward to its lofty summit,--where angels might alight, lapsing downward from heaven, and gaze curiously at the bustle of men below,--I could not but feel that there is a moral charm in this faithful minuteness of Gothic architecture, filling up its outline with a million of beauties that perhaps may never be studied out by a single spectator. It is the very process of nature, and no doubt produces an effect that we know not of. Classic architecture is nothing but an outline, and affords no little points, no interstices where human feelings may cling and overgrow it like ivy. The charm, as I said, seems to be moral rather than intellectual; for in the gem-room of the Uffizi you may see fifty designs, elaborated on a small scale, that have just as much merit as the design of the Campanile. If it were only five inches long, it might be a case for some article of toilet; being two hundred feet high, its prettiness develops into grandeur as well as beauty, and it becomes really one of the wonders of the world. The design of the Pantheon, on the contrary, would retain its sublimity on whatever scale it might be represented.
Returning homewards, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio, and went
Another niche contains two telescopes, wherewith he made some of his discoveries; they are perhaps a yard long, and of very small calibre. Other astronomical instruments are displayed in the glass cases that line the rooms; but I did not understand their use any better than the monks, who wished to burn Galileo for his heterodoxy about the planetary system. . . . .
After dinner I climbed the tower. . . . .
As we passed under the arch of the Porta Romana this morning, on our way into the city, we saw a queer object. It was what we at first took for a living man, in a garb of light reddish or yellowish red color, of antique or priestly fashion, and with a cowl falling behind. His face was of the same hue, and seemed to have been powdered, as the faces of maskers sometimes are. He sat in a cart, which he seemed to be driving into the Deity with a load of earthen jars and pipkins, the color of which was precisely like his own. On closer inspection, this priestly figure proved to be likewise an image of earthenware, but his lifelikeness had a very strange and rather ghastly effect. Adam, perhaps, was made of just such red earth, and had the complexion of this figure.
September 7th.--I walked into town yesterday morning, by way of the Porta San Frediano. The gate of a city might be a good locality for a chapter in a novel, or for a little sketch by itself, whether by painter or writer. The great arch of the gateway, piercing through the depth and height of the massive masonry beneath the battlemented summit; the shadow brooding below, in the immense thickness of the wall and beyond it, the vista of the street, sunny and swarming with life; outside of the gate, a throng of carts, laden with fruits, vegetables, small flat barrels of wine, waiting to be examined by the custom-house officers; carriages too, and foot-passengers entering, and others swarming outward. Under the shadowy arch are the offices of the police and customs, and probably the guard-room of the soldiers, all hollowed out in the mass of the gateway. Civil officers loll on chairs in the shade, perhaps with an awning over their heads. Where the sun falls aslantwise under the arch a sentinel, with musket and bayonet, paces to and fro in the entrance, and other soldiers lounge close by. The life of the city seems to be compressed and made more intense by this barrier; and on passing within it you do not breathe quite so freely, yet are sensible of an enjoyment in the close elbowing throng, the clamor of high voices from side to side of the street, and the million of petty sights, actions, traffics, and personalities, all so squeezed together as to become a great whole.
The street by which I entered led me to the
I next went, as a matter of course, to the Uffizi gallery, and, in the first place, to the Tribune, where the Venus de' Medici deigned to reveal herself rather more satisfactorily than at my last visit. . . . . I looked into all the rooms, bronzes, drawings, and gem-room; a volume might easily be written upon either subject. The contents of the gem-room especially require to be looked at separately in order to convince one's self of their minute magnificences; for, among so many, the eye slips from one to another with only a vague outward sense that here are whole shelves full of little miracles, both of nature's material and man's workmanship. Greater [larger] things can be reasonably well appreciated with a less scrupulous though broader attention; but in order to estimate the brilliancy of the diamond eyes of a little agate bust, for instance, you have to screw your mind down to them and nothing else. You must sharpen your faculties of observation to a point, and touch the object exactly on the right spot, or you do not appreciate it at all. It is a troublesome process when there are a thousand such objects to be seen.
I stood at an open window in the transverse corridor, and
looked down upon the
Along the right shore, beneath the Uffizi and the adjacent
buildings, there is a broad paved way, with a parapet; on the opposite shore
the edifices are built directly upon the river's edge, and impend over the
water, supported upon arches and machicolations, as I think that peculiar
arrangement of buttressing arcades is called.
The houses are picturesquely various in height, from two or three stories
to seven; picturesque in hue likewise,--pea-green, yellow, white, and of aged
discoloration,--but all with green blinds; picturesque also in the courts and
galleries that look upon the river, and in the wide arches that open beneath,
intended perhaps to afford a haven for the household boat. Nets were suspended before one or two of the
houses, as if the inhabitants were in the habit of fishing out of window. As a general effect, the houses, though often
palatial in size and height, have a shabby, neglected aspect, and are jumbled
too closely together. Behind their range
the city swells upward in a hillside, which rises to a great height above,
forming, I believe, a part of the
I returned homewards over the Ponte Vecchio, which is a continuous street of ancient houses, except over the central arch, so that a stranger might easily cross the river without knowing it. In these small, old houses there is a community of goldsmiths, who set out their glass cases, and hang their windows with rings, bracelets, necklaces, strings of pearl, ornaments of malachite and coral, and especially with Florentine mosaics; watches, too, and snuff-boxes of old fashion or new; offerings for shrines also, such as silver hearts pierced with swords; an infinity of pretty things, the manufacture of which is continually going on in the little back-room of each little shop. This gewgaw business has been established on the Ponte Vecchio for centuries, although, long since, it was an art of far higher pretensions than now. Benvenuto Cellini had his workshop here, probably in one of these selfsame little nooks. It would have been a ticklish affair to be Benvenuto's fellow-workman within such narrow limits.
Going out of the Porta Romana, I walked for some distance
along the city wall, and then, turning to the left, toiled up the hill of
Bellosguardo, through narrow zigzag lanes between high walls of stone or
plastered brick, where the sun had the fairest chance to frizzle me. There were scattered villas and houses, here
and there concentrating into a little bit of a street, paved with flag-stones
from side to side, as in the city, and shadowed quite across its narrowness by
the height of the houses. Mostly,
however, the way was inhospitably sunny, and shut out by the high wall from
every glimpse of a view, except in one spot, where
September 10th.--I went into town again yesterday, by way of the Porta San Frediano, and observed that this gate (like the other gates of Florence, as far as I have observed) is a tall, square structure of stone or brick, or both, rising high above the adjacent wall, and having a range of open loggie in the upper story. The arch externally is about half the height of the structure. Inside, towards the town, it rises nearly to the roof. On each side of the arch there is much room for offices, apartments, storehouses, or whatever else. On the outside of the gate, along the base, are those iron rings and sockets for torches, which are said to be the distinguishing symbol of illustrious houses. As contrasted with the vista of the narrow, swarming street through the arch from without, the view from the inside might be presented with a glimpse of the free blue sky.
I strolled a little about
The Fair is still going on, and one of its principal centres
is before this church, in the Piazza of the Annunziata. Cloth is the chief commodity offered for
sale, and none of the finest; coarse, unbleached linen and cotton prints for
country-people's wear, together with yarn, stockings, and here and there an
assortment of bright-colored ribbons. Playthings, of a very rude fashion, were
also displayed; likewise books in Italian and French; and a great deal of
iron-work. Both here and in
I paid a visit to the gallery of the
It was one of the days when my mind misgives me whether the
pictorial art be not a humbug, and when the minute accuracy of a fly in a Dutch
picture of fruit and flowers seems to me something more reliable than the
master-touches of Raphael. The gallery
was considerably thronged, and many of the visitors appeared to be from the
country, and of a class intermediate between gentility and labor. Is there such a rural class in
Nothing pleased me better to-day than some amber cups, in one of the cabinets of curiosities. They are richly wrought, and the material is as if the artist had compressed a great deal of sunshine together, and when sufficiently solidified had moulded these cups out of it and let them harden. This simile was suggested by ------.
Leaving the palace, I entered the Boboli Gardens, and wandered up and down a good deal of its uneven surface, through broad, well-kept edges of box, sprouting loftily, trimmed smoothly, and strewn between with cleanly gravel; skirting along plantations of aged trees, throwing a deep shadow within their precincts; passing many statues, not of the finest art, yet approaching so near it, as to serve just as good a purpose for garden ornament; coming now and then to the borders of a fishpool, or a pond, where stately swans circumnavigated an island of flowers;--all very fine and very wearisome. I have never enjoyed this garden; perhaps because it suggests dress-coats, and such elegant formalities.
September 11th.--We have heard a good deal of spirit matters of late, especially of wonderful incidents that attended Mr. Home's visit to Florence, two or three years ago. Mrs. Powers told a very marvellous thing; how that when Mr. Home was holding a seance in her house, and several persons present, a great scratching was heard in a neighboring closet. She addressed the spirit, and requested it not to disturb the company then, as they were busy with other affairs, promising to converse with it on a future occasion. On a subsequent night, accordingly, the scratching was renewed, with the utmost violence; and in reply to Mrs. Powers's questions, the spirit assured her that it was not one, but legion, being the ghosts of twenty-seven monks, who were miserable and without hope! The house now occupied by Powers was formerly a convent, and I suppose these were the spirits of all the wicked monks that had ever inhabited it; at least, I hope that there were not such a number of damnable sinners extant at any one time. These ghostly fathers must have been very improper persons in their lifetime, judging by the indecorousness of their behavior even after death, and in such dreadful circumstances; for they pulled Mrs. Powers's skirts so hard as to break the gathers. . . . . It was not ascertained that they desired to have anything done for their eternal welfare, or that their situation was capable of amendment anyhow; but, being exhorted to refrain from further disturbance, they took their departure, after making the sign of the cross on the breast of each person present. This was very singular in such reprobates, who, by their own confession, had forfeited all claim to be benefited by that holy symbol: it curiously suggests that the forms of religion may still be kept up in purgatory and hell itself. The sign was made in a way that conveyed the sense of something devilish and spiteful; the perpendicular line of the cross being drawn gently enough, but the transverse one sharply and violently, so as to leave a painful impression. Perhaps the monks meant this to express their contempt and hatred for heretics; and how queer, that this antipathy should survive their own damnation! But I cannot help hoping that the case of these poor devils may not be so desperate as they think. They cannot be wholly lost, because their desire for communication with mortals shows that they need sympathy, therefore are not altogether hardened, therefore, with loving treatment, may be restored.
A great many other wonders took place within the knowledge and experience of Mrs. P------. She saw, not one pair of hands only, but many. The head of one of her dead children, a little boy, was laid in her lap, not in ghastly fashion, as a head out of the coffin and the grave, but just as the living child might have laid it on his mother's knees. It was invisible, by the by, and she recognized it by the features and the character of the hair, through the sense of touch. Little hands grasped hers. In short, these soberly attested incredibilities are so numerous that I forget nine tenths of them, and judge the others too cheap to be written down. Christ spoke the truth surely, in saying that men would not believe, "though one rose from the dead." In my own case, the fact makes absolutely no impression. I regret such confirmation of truth as this.
Within a mile of our villa stands the Villa Columbaria, a
large house, built round a square court.
Like Mr. Powers's residence, it was formerly a convent. It is inhabited by Major Gregorie, an old
He had made Mrs. ------ aware of his presence in her room by a sensation of extreme cold, as if a wintry breeze were blowing over her; also by a rustling of the bed-curtains; and, at such times, she had a certain consciousness, as she says, that she was not ALONE. Through Mr. Home's agency, the ghost was enabled to explain himself, and declared that he was a monk, named Giannane, who died a very long time ago in Mrs. ------'s present bedchamber. He was a murderer, and had been in a restless and miserable state ever since his death, wandering up and down the house, but especially haunting his own death-chamber and a staircase that communicated with the chapel of the villa. All the interviews with this lost spirit were attended with a sensation of severe cold, which was felt by every one present. He made his communications by means of table-rapping, and by the movements of chairs and other articles, which often assumed an angry character. The poor old fellow does not seem to have known exactly what he wanted with Mrs. ------, but promised to refrain from disturbing her any more, on condition that she would pray that he might find some repose. He had previously declined having any masses said for his soul. Rest, rest, rest, appears to be the continual craving of unhappy spirits; they do not venture to ask for positive bliss: perhaps, in their utter weariness, would rather forego the trouble of active enjoyment, but pray only for rest. The cold atmosphere around this monk suggests new ideas as to the climate of Hades. If all the afore-mentioned twenty-seven monks had a similar one, the combined temperature must have been that of a polar winter.
Mrs. ------ saw, at one time, the fingers of her monk, long, yellow, and skinny; these fingers grasped the hands of individuals of the party, with a cold, clammy, and horrible touch.
After the departure of this ghost other seances were held in her bedchamber, at which good and holy spirits manifested themselves, and behaved in a very comfortable and encouraging way. It was their benevolent purpose, apparently, to purify her apartments from all traces of the evil spirit, and to reconcile her to what had been so long the haunt of this miserable monk, by filling it with happy and sacred associations, in which, as Mrs. ------ intimates, they entirely succeeded.
These stories remind me of an incident that took place at the old manse, in the first summer of our marriage. . . . .
September 17th.--We walked yesterday to
We crossed the church and entered a cloister on the opposite side, in quest of the Laurentian Library. Ascending a staircase we found an old man blowing the bellows of the organ, which was in full blast in the church; nevertheless he found time to direct us to the library door. We entered a lofty vestibule, of ancient aspect and stately architecture, and thence were admitted into the library itself; a long and wide gallery or hall, lighted by a row of windows on which were painted the arms of the Medici. The ceiling was inlaid with dark wood, in an elaborate pattern, which was exactly repeated in terra-cotta on the pavement beneath our feet. Long desks, much like the old-fashioned ones in schools, were ranged on each side of the mid aisle, in a series from end to end, with seats for the convenience of students; and on these desks were rare manuscripts, carefully preserved under glass; and books, fastened to the desks by iron chains, as the custom of studious antiquity used to be. Along the centre of the hall, between the two ranges of desks, were tables and chairs, at which two or three scholarly persons were seated, diligently consulting volumes in manuscript or old type. It was a very quiet place, imbued with a cloistered sanctity, and remote from all street-cries and rumble of the city,--odorous of old literature,--a spot where the commonest ideas ought not to be expressed in less than Latin.
The librarian--or custode he ought rather to be termed, for he was a man not above the fee of a paul--now presented himself, and showed us some of the literary curiosities; a vellum manuscript of the Bible, with a splendid illumination by Ghirlandaio, covering two folio pages, and just as brilliant in its color as if finished yesterday. Other illuminated manuscripts--or at least separate pages of them, for the volumes were kept under glass, and not to be turned over--were shown us, very magnificent, but not to be compared with this of Ghirlandaio. Looking at such treasures I could almost say that we have left behind us more splendor than we have kept alive to our own age. We publish beautiful editions of books, to be sure, and thousands of people enjoy them; but in ancient times the expense that we spread thinly over a thousand volumes was all compressed into one, and it became a great jewel of a book, a heavy folio, worth its weight in gold. Then, what a spiritual charm it gives to a book to feel that every letter has been individually wrought, and the pictures glow for that individual page alone! Certainly the ancient reader had a luxury which the modern one lacks. I was surprised, moreover, to see the clearness and accuracy of the chirography. Print does not surpass it in these respects.
The custode showed us an ancient manuscript of the Decameron; likewise, a volume containing the portraits of Petrarch and of Laura, each covering the whole of a vellum page, and very finely done. They are authentic portraits, no doubt, and Laura is depicted as a fair-haired beauty, with a very satisfactory amount of loveliness. We saw some choice old editions of books in a small separate room; but as these were all ranged in shut bookcases, and as each volume, moreover, was in a separate cover or modern binding, this exhibition did us very little good. By the by, there is a conceit struggling blindly in my mind about Petrarch and Laura, suggested by those two lifelike portraits, which have been sleeping cheek to cheek through all these centuries. But I cannot lay hold of it.
September 21st.--Yesterday morning the Val d' Arno was entirely filled with a thick fog, which extended even up to our windows, and concealed objects within a very short distance. It began to dissipate itself betimes, however, and was the forerunner of an unusually bright and warm day. We set out after breakfast and walked into town, where we looked at mosaic brooches. These are very pretty little bits of manufacture; but there seems to have been no infusion of fresh fancy into the work, and the specimens present little variety. It is the characteristic commodity of the place; the central mart and manufacturing locality being on the Ponte Vecchio, from end to end of which they are displayed in cases; but there are other mosaic shops scattered about the town. The principal devices are roses,--pink, yellow, or white,--jasmines, lilies of the valley, forget-me-nots, orange blossoms, and others, single or in sprigs, or twined into wreaths; parrots, too, and other birds of gay plumage,--often exquisitely done, and sometimes with precious materials, such as lapis lazuli, malachite, and still rarer gems. Bracelets, with several different, yet relative designs, are often very beautiful. We find, at different shops, a great inequality of prices for mosaics that seemed to be of much the same quality.
We went to the Uffizi gallery, and found it much thronged
with the middle and lower classes of Italians; and the English, too, seemed
more numerous than I have lately seen them.
Perhaps the tourists have just arrived here, starting at the close of
His companion, as I said, was of a completely different type; a tall, gray-haired man, with the rough English face, a little tinted with port wine; careless, natural manner, betokening a man of position in his own neighborhood; a loud voice, not vulgar, nor outraging the rules of society, but betraying a character incapable of much refinement. He talked continually in his progress through the gallery, and audibly enough for us to catch almost everything he said, at many yards' distance. His remarks and criticisms, addressed to his small friend, were so entertaining, that we strolled behind him for the sake of being benefited by them; and I think he soon became aware of this, and addressed himself to us as well as to his more immediate friend. Nobody but an Englishman, it seems to me, has just this kind of vanity,--a feeling mixed up with scorn and good-nature; self-complacency on his own merits, and as an Englishman; pride at being in foreign parts; contempt for everybody around him; a rough kindliness towards people in general. I liked the man, and should be glad to know him better. As for his criticism, I am sorry to remember only one. It was upon the picture of the Nativity, by Correggio, in the Tribune, where the mother is kneeling before the Child, and adoring it in an awful rapture, because she sees the eternal God in its baby face and figure. The Englishman was highly delighted with this picture, and began to gesticulate, as if dandling a baby, and to make a chirruping sound. It was to him merely a representation of a mother fondling her infant. He then said, "If I could have my choice of the pictures and statues in the Tribune, I would take this picture, and that one yonder" (it was a good enough Enthronement of the Virgin by Andrea del Sarto) "and the Dancing Faun, and let the rest go." A delightful man; I love that wholesome coarseness of mind and heart, which no education nor opportunity can polish out of the genuine Englishman; a coarseness without vulgarity. When a Yankee is coarse, he is pretty sure to be vulgar too.
The two critics seemed to be considering whether it were
practicable to go from the Uffizi to the Pitti gallery; but "it confuses
one," remarked the little man, "to see more than one gallery in a
day." (I should think so,--the
September 23d.--The vintage has been going on in our podere
for about a week, and I saw a part of the process of making wine, under one of
our back windows. It was on a very small
scale, the grapes being thrown into a barrel, and crushed with a sort of
pestle; and as each estate seems to make its own wine, there are probably no
very extensive and elaborate appliances in general use for the
manufacture. The cider-making of
Besides grapes, we have had figs, and I have now learned to
be very fond of them. When they first
began to appear, two months ago, they had scarcely any sweetness, and tasted
very like a decaying squash: this was an early variety, with purple skins. There are many kinds of figs, the best being
green-skinned, growing yellower as they ripen; and the riper they are, the more
the sweetness within them intensifies, till they resemble dried figs in everything,
except that they retain the fresh fruit-flavor; rich, luscious, yet not
palling. We have had pears, too, some of
them very tolerable; and peaches, which look magnificently, as regards size and
downy blush, but, have seldom much more taste than a cucumber. A succession of fruits has followed us, ever
since our arrival in Florence:--first, and for a long time, abundance of
cherries; then apricots, which lasted many weeks, till we were weary of them;
then plums, pears, and finally figs, peaches, and grapes. Except the figs and grapes, a New England
summer and autumn would give us better fruit than any we have found in
The moist atmosphere about the Arno, I suppose, produces these insects, and fills the broad, ten-mile valley with them; and as we are just on the brim of the basin, they overflow into our windows.
September 25th.--U---- and I walked to town yesterday
morning, and went to the Uffizi gallery.
It is not a pleasant thought that we are so soon to give up this
gallery, with little prospect (none, or hardly any, on my part) of ever seeing
it again. It interests me and all of us
far more than the gallery of the
Speaking of Dutch pictures, I was much struck yesterday, as frequently before, with a small picture by Teniers the elder. It seems to be a pawnbroker in the midst of his pledges; old earthen jugs, flasks, a brass kettle, old books, and a huge pile of worn-out and broken rubbish, which he is examining. These things are represented with vast fidelity, yet with bold and free touches, unlike the minute, microscopic work of other Dutch masters; and a wonderful picturesqueness is wrought out of these humble materials, and even the figure and head of the pawnbroker have a strange grandeur.
We spent no very long time at the Uffizi, and afterwards
crossed the Ponte alle Grazie, and went to the convent of San Miniato, which
stands on a hill outside of the Porta San Gallo. A paved pathway, along which stand crosses
marking stations at which pilgrims are to kneel and pray, goes steeply to the
hill-top, where, in the first place, is a smaller church and convent than those
of San Miniato. The latter are seen at a
short distance to the right, the convent being a large, square battlemented
mass, adjoining which is the church, showing a front of aged white marble,
streaked with black, and having an old stone tower behind. I have seen no other
convent or monastery that so well corresponds with my idea of what such
structures were. The sacred precincts
are enclosed by a high wall, gray, ancient, and luxuriously ivy-grown, and
lofty and strong enough for the rampart of a fortress. We went through the gateway and entered the
church, which we found in much disarray, and masons at work upon the
pavement. The tribune is elevated
considerably above the nave, and accessible by marble staircases; there are
great arches and a chapel, with curious monuments in the Gothic style, and
ancient carvings and mosaic works, and, in short, a dim, dusty, and venerable
interior, well worth studying in detail. . . . . The view of
September 28th.--I went to the Pitti Palace yesterday, and to the Uffizi to-day, paying them probably my last visit, yet cherishing an unreasonable doubt whether I may not see them again. At all events, I have seen them enough for the present, even what is best of them; and, at the same time, with a sad reluctance to bid them farewell forever, I experience an utter weariness of Raphael's old canvas, and of the time-yellowed marble of the Venus de' Medici. When the material embodiment presents itself outermost, and we perceive them only by the grosser sense, missing their ethereal spirit, there is nothing so heavily burdensome as masterpieces of painting and sculpture. I threw my farewell glance at the Venus de' Medici to-day with strange insensibility.
The nights are wonderfully beautiful now. When the moon was at the full, a few nights ago, its light was an absolute glory, such as I seem only to have dreamed of heretofore, and that only in my younger days. At its rising I have fancied that the orb of the moon has a kind of purple brightness, and that this tinge is communicated to its radiance until it has climbed high aloft and sheds a flood of white over hill and valley. Now that the moon is on the wane, there is a gentler lustre, but still bright; and it makes the Val d' Arno with its surrounding hills, and its soft mist in the distance, as beautiful a scene as exists anywhere out of heaven. And the morning is quite as beautiful in its own way. This mist, of which I have so often spoken, sets it beyond the limits of actual sense and makes it ideal; it is as if you were dreaming about the valley,--as if the valley itself were dreaming, and met you half-way in your own dream. If the mist were to be withdrawn, I believe the whole beauty of the valley would go with it.
Until pretty late in the morning, we have the comet streaming through the sky, and dragging its interminable tail among the stars. It keeps brightening from night to night, and I should think must blaze fiercely enough to cast a shadow by and by. I know not whether it be in the vicinity of Galileo's tower, and in the influence of his spirit, but I have hardly ever watched the stars with such interest as now.
September 29th.--Last evening I met Mr. Powers at Miss
Blagden's, and he talked about his treatment, by our government in reference,
to an appropriation of twenty-five thousand dollars made by Congress for a
statue by him. Its payment and the
purchase of the statue were left at the option of the President, and he
conceived himself wronged because the affair was never concluded. . . . . As
for the President, he knows nothing of art, and probably acted in the matter by
the advice of the director of public works.
No doubt a sculptor gets commissions as everybody gets public employment
and emolument of whatever kind from our government, not by merit or fitness,
but by political influence skilfully applied.
As Powers himself observed, the ruins of our Capitol are not likely to
afford sculptures equal to those which Lord Elgin took from the Parthenon, if
this be the system under which they are produced. . . . . I wish our great
Republic had the spirit to do as much, according to its vast means, as
There was also at Miss Blagden's, among other company, Mr.
------, an artist in
This morning Mr. Powers invited me to go with him to the Grand Duke's new foundry, to see the bronze statue of Webster which has just been cast from his model. It is the second cast of the statue, the first having been shipped some months ago on board of a vessel which was lost; and, as Powers observed, the statue now lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean somewhere in the vicinity of the telegraphic cable.
We were received with much courtesy and emphasis by the
director of the foundry, and conducted into a large room walled with bare, new
brick, where the statue was standing in front of the extinct furnace: a
majestic Webster indeed, eight feet high, and looking
even more colossal than that. The
likeness seemed to me perfect, and, like a sensible man, Powers' has dressed
him in his natural costume, such as I have seen Webster have on while making a
speech in the open air at a mass meeting in Concord,--dress-coat buttoned
pretty closely across the breast, pantaloons and boots,--everything finished
even to a seam and a stitch. Not an inch of the statue but is Webster; even his
coat-tails are imbued with the man, and this true artist has succeeded in
showing him through the broadcloth as nature showed him. He has felt that a man's actual clothes are
as much a part of him as his flesh, and I respect him for disdaining to shirk
the difficulty by throwing the meanness of a cloak over it, and for recognizing
the folly of masquerading our Yankee statesman in a Roman toga, and the
indecorousness of presenting him as a brassy nudity. It would have been quite as unjustifiable to
strip him to his skeleton as to his flesh.
Webster is represented as holding in his right hand the written roll of
the Constitution, with which he points to a bundle of fasces, which he keeps
from falling by the grasp of his left, thus symbolizing him as the preserver of
Powers made me observe how the surface of the statue was
wrought to a sort of roughness instead of being smoothed, as is the practice of
other artists. He said that this had
cost him great pains, and certainly it has an excellent effect. The statue is to go to
After seeing this, the director showed us some very curious and exquisite specimens of castings, such as baskets of flowers, in which the most delicate and fragile blossoms, the curl of a petal, the finest veins in a leaf, the lightest flower-spray that ever quivered in a breeze, were perfectly preserved; and the basket contained an abundant heap of such sprays. There were likewise a pair of hands, taken actually from life, clasped together as they were, and they looked like parts of a man who had been changed suddenly from flesh to brass. They were worn and rough and unhandsome hands, and so very real, with all their veins and the pores of the skin, that it was shocking to look at them. A bronze leaf, cast also from the life, was as curious and more beautiful.
Taking leave of Powers, I went hither and thither about
Florence, seeing for the last time things that I have seen many times before:
the market, for instance, blocking up a line of narrow streets with
fruit-stalls, and obstreperous dealers crying their peaches, their green
lemons, their figs, their delicious grapes, their mushrooms, their
pomegranates, their radishes, their lettuces.
They use one vegetable here which I have not known so used elsewhere;
that is, very young pumpkins or squashes, of the size of apples, and to be
cooked by boiling. They are not to my
taste, but the people here like unripe things,--unripe fruit, unripe chickens, unripe lamb. This
market is the noisiest and swarmiest centre of noisy and swarming
I went also to Santa Croce, and it seemed to me to present a
longer vista and broader space than almost any other church, perhaps because
the pillars between the nave and aisles are not so massive as to obstruct the
view. I looked into the Duomo, too, and
was pretty well content to leave it.
Then I came homeward, and lost my way, and
wandered far off through the white sunshine, and the scanty shade of the
vineyard walls, and the olive-trees that here and there branched over
them. At last I saw our own gray
battlements at a distance, on one side, quite out of the direction in which I
was travelling, so was compelled to the grievous mortification of retracing a
great many of my weary footsteps. It was
a very hot day. This evening I have been
on the towertop star-gazing, and looking at the comet, which waves along the
sky like an immense feather of flame.
I forgot to mention that Powers showed me, in his studio,
the model of the statue of
Mr. Powers and his two daughters called to take leave of us,
and at parting I expressed a hope of seeing him in
October 2d.--Yesterday morning, at six o'clock, we left our ancient tower, and threw a parting glance--and a rather sad one--over the misty Val d' Arno. This summer will look like a happy one in our children's retrospect, and also, no doubt, in the years that remain to ourselves; and, in truth, I have found it a peaceful and not uncheerful one.
It was not a pleasant morning, and Monte Morello, looking
At Empoli, about an hour after we started, we had to change
carriages, the main train proceeding to
We drove up hill and down (for the surface of
Soon Mr. and Mrs. Story came, and accompanied us to look for
lodgings. They also drove us about the city in their carriage, and showed us
the outside of the Palazzo Publico, and of the cathedral and other remarkable
edifices. The aspect of
We took a lodging, and afterwards
J----- and I rambled about, and went into the cathedral for a moment, and
strayed also into the Piazza del Campo, the great public
In the evening Miss S------ and I drove to the railway, and
on the arrival of the train from
October 3d.--I took several strolls about the city
yesterday, and find it scarcely extensive enough to get lost in; and if we go
far from the centre we soon come to silent streets, with only here and there an
individual; and the inhabitants stare from their doors and windows at the
stranger, and turn round to look at him after he has passed. The interest of the old town would soon be
exhausted for the traveller, but I can conceive that a thoughtful and shy man
might settle down here with the view of making the place a home, and spend many
years in a sombre kind of happiness. I
should prefer it to
U---- and I walked out in the
afternoon, and went into the Piazza del Campo, the principal place of the city,
and a very noble and peculiar one. It is
much in the form of an amphitheatre, and the surface of the ground seems to be
slightly scooped out, so that it resembles the shallow basin of a shell. It is thus a much better site for an
assemblage of the populace than if it were a perfect level. A semicircle or truncated ellipse
of stately and ancient edifices surround the piazza, with arches opening
beneath them, through which streets converge hitherward. One side of the piazza is a straight line,
and is occupied by the Palazzo Publico, which is a most noble and impressive
Gothic structure. It has not the mass of
the Palazzo Vecchio at
The great Piazza del Campo is the market-place of
On the side opposite the palace is an antique fountain of marble, ornamented with two statues and a series of bas-reliefs; and it was so much admired in its day that its sculptor received the name "Del Fonte." I am loath to leave the piazza and palace without finding some word or two to suggest their antique majesty, in the sunshine and the shadow; and how fit it seemed, notwithstanding their venerableness, that there should be a busy crowd filling up the great, hollow amphitheatre, and crying their fruit and little merchandises, so that all the curved line of stately old edifices helped to reverberate the noise. The life of to-day, within the shell of a time past, is wonderfully fascinating.
Another point to which a stranger's footsteps are drawn by a kind of magnetism, so that he will be apt to find himself there as often as he strolls out of his hotel, is the cathedral. It stands in the highest part of the city, and almost every street runs into some other street which meanders hitherward. On our way thither, U---- and I came to a beautiful front of black and white marble, in somewhat the same style as the cathedral; in fact, it was the baptistery, and should have made a part of it, according to the original design, which contemplated a structure of vastly greater extent than this actual one. We entered the baptistery, and found the interior small, but very rich in its clustered columns and intersecting arches, and its frescos, pictures, statues, and ornaments. Moreover, a father and mother had brought their baby to be baptized, and the poor little thing, in its gay swaddling-clothes, looked just like what I have seen in old pictures, and a good deal like an Indian pappoose. It gave one little slender squeak when the priest put the water on its forehead, and then was quiet again.
We now went round to the facade of the cathedral. . . . . It is of black and white marble, with, I believe, an intermixture of red and other colors; but time has toned them down, so that white, black, and red do not contrast so strongly with one another as they may have done five hundred years ago. The architecture is generally of the pointed Gothic style, but there are likewise carved arches over the doors and windows, and a variety which does not produce the effect of confusion,--a magnificent eccentricity, an exuberant imagination flowering out in stone. On high, in the great peak of the front, and throwing its colored radiance into the nave within, there is a round window of immense circumference, the painted figures in which we can see dimly from the outside. But what I wish to express, and never can, is the multitudinous richness of the ornamentation of the front: the arches within arches, sculptured inch by inch, of the deep doorways; the statues of saints, some making a hermitage of a niche, others standing forth; the scores of busts, that look like faces of ancient people gazing down out of the cathedral; the projecting shapes of stone lions,--the thousand forms of Gothic fancy, which seemed to soften the marble and express whatever it liked, and allow it to harden again to last forever. But my description seems like knocking off the noses of some of the busts, the fingers and toes of the statues, the projecting points of the architecture, jumbling them all up together, and flinging them down upon the page. This gives no idea of the truth, nor, least of all, can it shadow forth that solemn whole, mightily combined out of all these minute particulars, and sanctifying the entire space of ground over which this cathedral-front flings its shadow, or on which it reflects the sun. A majesty and a minuteness, neither interfering with the other, each assisting the other; this is what I love in Gothic architecture. We went in and walked about; but I mean to go again before sketching the interior in my poor water-colors.
October 4th.--On looking again at the Palazzo Publico, I see that the pillared portal which I have spoken of does not cover an entrance to the palace, but is a chapel, with an altar, and frescos above it. Bouquets of fresh flowers are on the altar, and a lamp burns, in all the daylight, before the crucifix. The chapel is quite unenclosed, except by an openwork balustrade of marble, on which the carving looks very ancient. Nothing could be more convenient for the devotions of the crowd in the piazza, and no doubt the daily prayers offered at the shrine might be numbered by the thousand,--brief, but I hope earnest,--like those glimpses I used to catch at the blue sky, revealing so much in an instant, while I was toiling at Brook Farm. Another picturesque thing about the Palazzo Publico is a great stone balcony quaintly wrought, about midway in the front and high aloft, with two arched windows opening into it.
After another glimpse at the cathedral, too, I realize how utterly I have failed in conveying the idea of its elaborate ornament, its twisted and clustered pillars, and numberless devices of sculpture; nor did I mention the venerable statues that stand all round the summit of the edifice, relieved against the sky,--the highest of all being one of the Saviour, on the topmost peak of the front; nor the tall tower that ascends from one side of the building, and is built of layers of black and white marble piled one upon another in regular succession; nor the dome that swells upward close beside this tower.
Had the cathedral been constructed on the plan and dimensions at first contemplated, it would have been incomparably majestic; the finished portion, grand as it is, being only what was intended for a transept. One of the walls of what was to have been the nave is still standing, and looks like a ruin, though, I believe, it has been turned to account as the wall of a palace, the space of the never-completed nave being now a court or street.
The whole family of us were kindly
taken out yesterday, to dine and spend the day at the Villa Belvedere with our
friends Mr. and Mrs. Story. The vicinity
We spent a very pleasant day, turning over books or talking on the lawn, whence we could behold scenes picturesque afar, and rich vineyard glimpses near at hand. Mr. Story is the most variously accomplished and brilliant person, the fullest of social life and fire, whom I ever met; and without seeming to make an effort, he kept us amused and entertained the whole day long; not wearisomely entertained neither, as we should have been if he had not let his fountain play naturally. Still, though he bubbled and brimmed over with fun, he left the impression on me that . . . . there is a pain and care, bred, it may be, out of the very richness of his gifts and abundance of his outward prosperity. Rich, in the prime of life, . . . . and children budding and blossoming around him as fairly as his heart could wish, with sparkling talents,--so many, that if he choose to neglect or fling away one, or two, or three, he would still have enough left to shine with,--who should be happy if not he? . . . .
Towards sunset we all walked out into the podere, pausing a little while to look down into a well that stands on the verge of the lawn. Within the spacious circle of its stone curb was an abundant growth of maidenhair, forming a perfect wreath of thickly clustering leaves quite round, and trailing its tendrils downward to the water which gleamed beneath. It was a very pretty sight. Mr. Story bent over the well and uttered deep, musical tones, which were reverberated from the hollow depths with wonderful effect, as if a spirit dwelt within there, and (unlike the spirits that speak through mediums) sent him back responses even profounder and more melodious than the tones that awakened them. Such a responsive well as this might have been taken for an oracle in old days.
We went along paths that led from one vineyard to another, and which might have led us for miles across the country. The grapes had been partly gathered, but still there were many purple or white clusters hanging heavily on the vines. We passed cottage doors, and saw groups of contadini and contadine in their festal attire, and they saluted us graciously; but it was observable that one of the men generally lingered on our track to see that no grapes were stolen, for there were a good many young people and children in our train, not only our own, but some from a neighboring villa. These Italian peasants are a kindly race, but, I doubt, not very hospitable of grape or fig.
There was a beautiful sunset, and by the time we reached the house again the comet was already visible amid the unextinguished glow of daylight. A Mr. and Mrs. B------, Scotch people from the next villa, had come to see the Storys, and we sat till tea-time reading, talking, William Story drawing caricatures for his children's amusement and ours, and all of us sometimes getting up to look at the comet, which blazed brighter and brighter till it went down into the mists of the horizon. Among the caricatures was one of a Presidential candidate, evidently a man of very malleable principles, and likely to succeed.
Late in the evening (too late for little Rosebud) we drove
homeward. The streets of old
October 5th.--I have been two or three times into the cathedral; . . . . the whole interior is of marble, in alternate lines of black and white, each layer being about eight inches in width and extending horizontally. It looks very curiously, and might remind the spectator of a stuff with horizontal stripes. Nevertheless, the effect is exceedingly rich, these alternate lines stretching away along the walls and round the clustered pillars, seen aloft, and through the arches; everywhere, this inlay of black and white. Every sort of ornament that could be thought of seems to have been crammed into the cathedral in one place or another: gilding, frescos, pictures; a roof of blue, spangled with golden stars; a magnificent wheel-window of old painted glass over the entrance, and another at the opposite end of the cathedral; statues, some of marble, others of gilded bronze; pulpits of carved marble; a gilded organ; a cornice of marble busts of the popes, extending round the entire church; a pavement, covered all over with a strange kind of mosaic work in various marbles, wrought into marble pictures of sacred subjects; immense clustered pillars supporting the round arches that divide the nave from the side aisles; a clere-story of windows within pointed arches;--it seemed as if the spectator were reading an antique volume written in black-letter of a small character, but conveying a high and solemn meaning. I can find no way of expressing its effect on me, so quaint and venerable as I feel this cathedral to be in its immensity of striped waistcoat, now dingy with five centuries of wear. I ought not to say anything that might detract from the grandeur and sanctity of the blessed edifice, for these attributes are really uninjured by any of the Gothic oddities which I have hinted at.
We went this morning to the Institute of the Fine Arts,
which is interesting as containing a series of the works of the Sienese
painters from a date earlier than that of Cimabue. There is a dispute, I believe, between
At last we came to a picture by Sodoma, the most illustrious representative of the Sienese school. It was a fresco; Christ bound to the pillar, after having been scourged. I do believe that painting has never done anything better, so far as expression is concerned, than this figure. In all these generations since it was painted it must have softened thousands of hearts, drawn down rivers of tears, been more effectual than a million of sermons. Really, it is a thing to stand and weep at. No other painter has done anything that can deserve to be compared to this.
There are some other pictures by Sodoma, among them a Judith, very noble and admirable, and full of a profound sorrow for the deed which she has felt it her mission to do.
Aquila Nera, October 7th.--Our lodgings in Siena had been taken only for five days, as they were already engaged after that period; so yesterday we returned to our old quarters at the Black Eagle.
In the forenoon J----- and I went out of one of the gates
(the road from it leads to
After dinner I walked out of another gate of the city, and
wandered among some pleasant country lanes, bordered with hedges, and wearing
an English aspect; at least, I could fancy so.
The vicinity of
October 9th.--Thursday forenoon, 8th, we went to see the
Palazzo Publico. There are some fine old halls and chapels, adorned with
ancient frescos and pictures, of which I remember a picture of the Virgin by
Sodoma, very beautiful, and other fine pictures by the
same master. The architecture of these
old rooms is grand, the roofs being supported by ponderous arches, which are
covered with frescos, still magnificent, though faded, darkened, and
defaced. We likewise saw an antique
casket of wood, enriched with gilding, which had once contained an arm of John
the Baptist,--so the custode told us.
One of the halls was hung with the portraits of eight popes and nearly
forty cardinals, who were natives of
Yesterday morning, in the cathedral, I watched a woman at confession, being curious to see how long it would take her to tell her sins, the growth of a week perhaps. I know not how long she had been confessing when I first observed her, but nearly an hour passed before the priest came suddenly from the confessional, looking weary and moist with perspiration, and took his way out of the cathedral. The woman was left on her knees. This morning I watched another woman, and she too was very long about it, and I could see the face of the priest behind the curtain of the confessional, scarcely inclining his ear to the perforated tin through which the penitent communicated her outpourings. It must be very tedious to listen, day after day, to the minute and commonplace iniquities of the multitude of penitents, and it cannot be often that these are redeemed by the treasure-trove of a great sin. When her confession was over the woman came and sat down on the same bench with me, where her broad-brimmed straw hat was lying. She seemed to be a country woman, with a simple, matronly face, which was solemnized and softened with the comfort that she had obtained by disburdening herself of the soil of worldly frailties and receiving absolution. An old woman, who haunts the cathedral, whispered to her, and she went and knelt down where a procession of priests were to pass, and then the old lady begged a cruzia of me, and got a half-paul. It almost invariably happens, in church or cathedral, that beggars address their prayers to the heretic visitor, and probably with more unction than to the Virgin or saints. However, I have nothing to say against the sincerity of this people's devotion. They give all the proof of it that a mere spectator can estimate.
Last evening we all went out to see the comet, which then reached its climax of lustre. It was like a lofty plume of fire, and grew very brilliant as the night darkened.
October 10th.--This morning, too, we went to the cathedral, and sat long listening to the music of the organ and voices, and witnessing rites and ceremonies which are far older than even the ancient edifice where they were exhibited. A good many people were present, sitting, kneeling, or walking about,--a freedom that contrasts very agreeably with the grim formalities of English churches and our own meeting-houses. Many persons were in their best attire; but others came in, with unabashed simplicity, in their old garments of labor, sunburnt women from their toil among the vines and olives. One old peasant I noticed with his withered shanks in breeches and blue yarn stockings. The people of whatever class are wonderfully tolerant of heretics, never manifesting any displeasure or annoyance, though they must see that we are drawn thither by curiosity alone, and merely pry while they pray. I heartily wish the priests were better men, and that human nature, divinely influenced, could be depended upon for a constant supply and succession of good and pure ministers, their religion has so many admirable points. And then it is a sad pity that this noble and beautiful cathedral should be a mere fossil shell, out of which the life has died long ago. But for many a year yet to come the tapers will burn before the high altar, the Host will be elevated, the incense diffuse its fragrance, the confessionals be open to receive the penitents. I saw a father entering with two little bits of boys, just big enough to toddle along, holding his hand on either side. The father dipped his fingers into the marble font of holy water,--which, on its pedestals, was two or three times as high as those small Christians, --and wetted a hand of each, and taught them how to cross themselves. When they come to be men it will be impossible to convince those children that there is no efficacy in holy water, without plucking up all religious faith and sentiment by the roots. Generally, I suspect, when people throw off the faith they were born in, the best soil of their hearts is apt to cling to its roots.
Raised several feet above the pavement, against every clustered pillar along the nave of the cathedral, is placed a statue of Gothic sculpture. In various places are sitting statues of popes of Sienese nativity, all of whom, I believe, have a hand raised in the act of blessing. Shrines and chapels, set in grand, heavy frames of pillared architecture, stand all along the aisles and transepts, and these seem in many instances to have been built and enriched by noble families, whose arms are sculptured on the pedestals of the pillars, sometimes with a cardinal's hat above to denote the rank of one of its members. How much pride, love, and reverence in the lapse of ages must have clung to the sharp points of all this sculpture and architecture! The cathedral is a religion in itself, --something worth dying for to those who have an hereditary interest in it. In the pavement, yesterday, I noticed the gravestone of a person who fell six centuries ago in the battle of Monte Aperto, and was buried here by public decree as a meed of valor.
This afternoon I took a walk out of one of the city gates,
and found the country about
Returning through the same gate by which I had come out, I
ascended into the city by a long and steep street, which was paved with bricks
set edgewise. This pavement is common in
many of the streets, which, being too steep for horses and carriages, are meant
only to sustain the lighter tread of mules and asses. The more level streets are paved with broad,
smooth flag-stones, like those of
October 11th.--Again I went to the cathedral this morning, and spent an hour listening to the music and looking through the orderly intricacies of the arches, where many vistas open away among the columns of the choir. There are five clustered columns on each side of the nave; then under the dome there are two more arches, not in a straight line, but forming the segment of a circle; and beyond the circle of the dome there are four more arches, extending to the extremity of the chancel. I should have said, instead of "clustered columns" as above, that there are five arches along the nave supported by columns. This cathedral has certainly bewitched me, to write about it so much, effecting nothing with my pains. I should judge the width of each arch to be about twenty feet, and the thickness of each clustered pillar is eight; or ten more, and the length of the entire building may be between two and three hundred feet; not very large, certainly, but it makes an impression of grandeur independent of size. . . . .
I never shall succeed even in reminding myself of the venerable magnificence of this minster, with its arches, its columns, its cornice of popes' heads, its great wheel windows, its manifold ornament, all combining in one vast effect, though many men have labored individually, and through a long course of time, to produce this multifarious handiwork and headwork.
I now took a walk out of the city. A road turned immediately to the left as I
emerged from the city, and soon proved to be a rustic lane leading past several
villas and farm-houses. It was a very
pleasant walk, with vineyards and olive-orchards on each side, and now and then
glimpses of the towers and sombre heaped-up palaces of Siena, and now a rural
seclusion again; for the hills rise and the valleys fall like the swell and
subsidence of the sea after a gale, so that Siena may be quite hidden within a
quarter of a mile of its wall, or may be visible, I doubt not, twenty miles
away. It is a fine old town, with every
promise of health and vigor in its atmosphere, and really, if I could take root
anywhere, I know not but it could as well be here as in another place. It would only be a kind of despair, however,
that would ever make me dream of finding a home in
October 12th.--And again we went to the cathedral this forenoon, and the whole family, except myself, sketched portions of it. Even Rosebud stood gravely sketching some of the inlaid figures of the pavement. As for me, I can but try to preserve some memorial of this beautiful edifice in ill-fitting words that never hit the mark. This morning visit was not my final one, for I went again after dinner and walked quite round the whole interior. I think I have not yet mentioned the rich carvings of the old oaken seats round the choir, and the curious mosaic of lighter and darker woods, by which figures and landscapes are skilfully represented on the backs of some of the stalls. The process seems to be the same as the inlaying and engraving of the pavement, the material in one case being marble, in the other wood. The only other thing that I particularly noticed was, that in the fonts of holy water at the front entrance, marble fish are sculptured in the depths of the basin, and eels and shellfish crawling round the brim. Have I spoken of the sumptuous carving of the capitals of the columns? At any rate I have left a thousand beauties without a word. Here I drop the subject. As I took my parting glance the cathedral had a gleam of golden sunshine in its far depths, and it seemed to widen and deepen itself, as if to convince me of my error in saying, yesterday, that it is not very large. I wonder how I could say it.
After taking leave of the cathedral, I found my way out of another of the city gates, and soon turned aside into a green lane. . . . . Soon the lane passed through a hamlet consisting of a few farm-houses, the shabbiest and dreariest that can be conceived, ancient, and ugly, and dilapidated, with iron-grated windows below, and heavy wooden shutters on the windows above,--high, ruinous walls shutting in the courts, and ponderous gates, one of which was off its hinges. The farm-yards were perfect pictures of disarray and slovenly administration of home affairs. Only one of these houses had a door opening on the road, and that was the meanest in the hamlet. A flight of narrow stone stairs ascended from the threshold to the second story. All these houses were specimens of a rude antiquity, built of brick and stone, with the marks of arched doors and windows where a subsequent generation had shut up the lights, or the accesses which the original builders had opened. Humble as these dwellings are,--though large and high compared with rural residences in other countries,--they may very probably date back to the times when Siena was a warlike republic, and when every house in its neighborhood had need to be a fortress. I suppose, however, prowling banditti were the only enemies against whom a defence would be attempted. What lives must now be lived there,--in beastly ignorance, mental sluggishness, hard toil for little profit, filth, and a horrible discomfort of fleas; for if the palaces of Italy are overrun with these pests, what must the country hovels be! . . . .
We are now all ready for a start to-morrow.
October 13th.--We arranged to begin our journey at six. . .
. . It was a chill, lowering morning, and the rain blew a little in our faces
before we had gone far, but did not continue long. The country soon lost the pleasant aspect
which it wears immediately about
As we drove into the town we noticed a Gothic church with two doors of peculiar architecture, and while our dejeuner was being prepared we went to see it. The interior had little that was remarkable, for it had been repaired early in the last century, and spoilt of course; but an old triptych is still hanging in a chapel beside the high altar. It is painted on wood, and dates back beyond the invention of oil-painting, and represents the Virgin and some saints and angels. Neither is the exterior of the church particularly interesting, with the exception of the carving and ornaments of two of the doors. Both of them have round arches, deep and curiously wrought, and the pillars of one of the two are formed of a peculiar knot or twine in stone-work, such as I cannot well describe, but it is both ingenious and simple. These pillars rest on two nondescript animals, which look as much like walruses as anything else. The pillars of the other door consist of two figures supporting the capitals, and themselves standing on two handsomely carved lions. The work is curious, and evidently very ancient, and the material a red freestone.
After lunch, J----- and I took a walk out of the gate of the town opposite to that of our entrance. There were no soldiers on guard, as at city gates of more importance; nor do I think that there is really any gate to shut, but the massive stone gateway still stands entire over the empty arch. Looking back after we had passed through, I observed that the lofty upper story is converted into a dove-cot, and that pumpkins were put to ripen in some open chambers at one side. We passed near the base of a tall, square tower, which is said to be of Roman origin. The little town is in the midst of a barren region, but its immediate neighborhood is fertile, and an olive-orchard, venerable of aspect, lay on the other side of the pleasant lane with its English hedges, and olive-trees grew likewise along the base of the city wall. The arched machicolations, which I have before mentioned, were here and there interrupted by a house which was built upon the old wall or incorporated into it; and from the windows of one of then I saw ears of Indian corn hung out to ripen in the sun, and somebody was winnowing grain at a little door that opened through the wall. It was very pleasant to see the ancient warlike rampart thus overcome with rustic peace. The ruined gateway is partly overgrown with ivy.
Returning to our inn, along the street, we saw ------ sketching one of the doors of the Gothic church, in the midst of a crowd of the good people of San Quirico, who made no scruple to look over her shoulder, pressing so closely as hardly to allow her elbow-room. I must own that I was too cowardly to come forward and take my share of this public notice, so I turned away to the inn and there awaited her coming. Indeed, she has seldom attempted to sketch without finding herself the nucleus of a throng.
The Black Eagle, October 14th.--Perhaps I had something more to say of San Quirico, but I shall merely add that there is a stately old palace of the Piccolomini close to the church above described. It is built in the style of the Roman palaces, and looked almost large enough to be one of them. Nevertheless, the basement story, or part of it, seems to be used as a barn and stable, for I saw a yoke of oxen in the entrance. I cannot but mention a most wretched team of vettura-horses which stopped at the door of our albergo: poor, lean, downcast creatures, with deep furrows between their ribs; nothing but skin and bone, in short, and not even so much skin as they should have had, for it was partially worn off from their backs. The harness was fastened with ropes, the traces and reins were ropes; the carriage was old and shabby, and out of this miserable equipage there alighted an ancient gentleman and lady, whom our waiter affirmed to be the Prefect of Florence and his wife.
We left San Quirico at two o'clock, and followed an ascending road till we got into the region above the clouds; the landscape was very wide, but very dreary and barren, and grew more and more so till we began to climb the mountain of Radicofani, the peak of which had been blackening itself on the horizon almost the whole day. When we had come into a pretty high region we were assailed by a real mountain tempest of wind, rain, and hail, which pelted down upon us in good earnest, and cooled the air a little below comfort. As we toiled up the mountain its upper region presented a very striking aspect, looking as if a precipice had been smoothed and squared for the purpose of rendering the old castle on its summit more inaccessible than it was by nature. This is the castle of the robber-knight, Ghino di Tacco, whom Boccaccio introduces into the Decameron. A freebooter of those days must have set a higher value on such a rock as this than if it had been one mass of diamond, for no art of mediaeval warfare could endanger him in such a fortress. Drawing yet nearer, we found the hillside immediately above us strewn with thousands upon thousands of great fragments of stone. It looked as if some great ruin had taken place there, only it was too vast a ruin to have been the dismemberment and dissolution of anything made by man.
We could now see the castle on the height pretty distinctly. It seemed to impend over the precipice; and
close to the base of the latter we saw the street of a town on as strange and
inconvenient a foundation as ever one was built upon. I suppose the inhabitants of the village were
dependants of the old knight of the castle; his brotherhood of robbers, as they
married and had families, settled there under the shelter of the eagle's
nest. But the singularity is, how a
community of people have contrived to live and
perpetuate themselves so far out of the reach of the world's help, and
seemingly with no means of assisting in the world's labor. I cannot imagine how they employ themselves
except in begging, and even that branch of industry appears to be left to the
old women and the children. No house was
ever built in this immediate neighborhood for any such natural purpose as
induces people to build them on other sites. Even our hotel, at which we now
arrived, could not be said to be a natural growth of the soil; it had
originally been a whim of one of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany,--a
hunting-palace,--intended for habitation only during a few weeks of the
year. Of all dreary hotels I ever
alighted at, methinks this is the most so; but on first arriving I merely
followed the waiter to look at our rooms, across stone-paved basement-halls
dismal as Etruscan tombs; up dim staircases, and along shivering corridors, all
of stone, stone, stone, nothing but cold stone.
After glancing at these pleasant accommodations, my wife and I, with
J-----, set out to ascend the hill and visit the town of
It is not more than a quarter of a mile above our hotel, and
is accessible by a good piece of road, though very steep. As we approached the town, we were assailed
by some little beggars; but this is the case all through
The street was very narrow, and paved with flag-stones not quite so smooth as those of Florence; the houses are tall enough to be stately, if they were not so inconceivably dingy and shabby; but, with their half-dozen stories, they make only the impression of hovel piled upon hovel,--squalor immortalized in undecaying stone. It was now getting far into the twilight, and I could not distinguish the particularities of the little town, except that there were shops, a cafe or two, and as many churches, all dusky with age, crowded closely together, inconvenient stifled too in spite of the breadth and freedom of the mountain atmosphere outside the scanty precincts of the street. It was a death-in-life little place, a fossilized place, and yet the street was thronged, and had all the bustle of a city; even more noise than a city's street, because everybody in Radicofani knows everybody, and probably gossips with everybody, being everybody's blood relation, as they cannot fail to have become after they and their forefathers have been shut up together within the narrow walls for many hundred years. They looked round briskly at J----- and me, but were courteous, as Italians always are, and made way for us to pass through the throng, as we kept on still ascending the steep street. It took us but a few minutes to reach the still steeper and winding pathway which climbs towards the old castle.
After ascending above the village, the path, though still paved, becomes very rough, as if the hoofs of Ghino di Tacco's robber cavalry had displaced the stones and they had never been readjusted. On every side, too, except where the path just finds space enough, there is an enormous rubbish of huge stones, which seems to have fallen from the precipice above, or else to have rained down out of the sky. We kept on, and by and by reached what seemed to have been a lower outwork of the castle on the top; there was the massive old arch of a gateway, and a great deal of ruin of man's work, beside the large stones that here, as elsewhere, were scattered so abundantly. Within the wall and gateway just mentioned, however, there was a kind of farm-house, adapted, I suppose, out of the old ruin, and I noticed some ears of Indian corn hanging out of a window. There were also a few stacks of hay, but no signs of human or animal life; and it is utterly inexplicable to me, where these products of the soil could have come from, for certainly they never grew amid that barrenness.
We had not yet reached Ghino's castle, and, being now beneath it, we had to bend our heads far backward to see it rising up against the clear sky while we were now in twilight. The path upward looked terribly steep and rough, and if we had climbed it we should probably have broken our necks in descending again into the lower obscurity. We therefore stopped here, much against J-----'s will, and went back as we came, still wondering at the strange situation of Radicofani; for its aspect is as if it had stepped off the top of the cliff and lodged at its base, though still in danger of sliding farther down the hillside. Emerging from the compact, grimy life of its street, we saw that the shower had swept by, or probably had expended itself in a region beneath us, for we were above the scope of many of the showery clouds that haunt a hill-country. There was a very bright star visible, I remember, and we saw the new moon, now a third towards the full, for the first time this evening. The air was cold and bracing.
But I am excessively sleepy, so will not describe our great dreary hotel, where a blast howled in an interminable corridor all night. It did not seem to have anything to do with the wind out of doors, but to be a blast that had been casually shut in when the doors were closed behind the last Grand Duke who came hither and departed, and ever since it has been kept prisoner, and makes a melancholy wail along the corridor. The dreamy stupidity of this conceit proves how sleepy I am.
October 15th.--We left Radicofani long before sunrise, and I saw that ceremony take place from the coupe of the vettura for the first time in a long while. A sunset is the better sight of the two. I have always suspected it, and have been strengthened in the idea whenever I have had an opportunity of comparison. Our departure from Radicofani was most dreary, except that we were very glad to get away; but, the cold discomfort of dressing in a chill bedroom by candlelight, and our uncertain wandering through the immense hotel with a dim taper in search of the breakfast-room, and our poor breakfast of eggs, Italian bread, and coffee,--all these things made me wish that people were created with roots like trees, so they could not befool themselves with wandering about. However, we had not long been on our way before the morning air blew away all our troubles, and we rumbled cheerfully onward, ready to encounter even the papal custom-house officers at Ponte Centino. Our road thither was a pretty steep descent. I remember the barren landscape of hills, with here and there a lonely farm-house, which there seemed to be no occasion for, where nothing grew.
At Ponte Centino my passport was examined, and I was invited
into an office where sat the papal custom-house officer, a thin,
subtle-looking, keen-eyed, sallow personage, of aspect very suitable to be the
agent of a government of priests. I
communicated to him my wish to pass the custom-house without giving the
officers the trouble of examining my luggage.
He inquired whether I had any dutiable articles, and wrote for my
signature a declaration in the negative; and then he lifted a sand-box, beneath
which was a little heap of silver coins.
On this delicate hint I asked what was the usual fee, and was told that
fifteen pauls was the proper sum. I presume it was entirely an illegal charge, and that he had no right to pass any luggage without
examination; but the thing is winked at by the authorities, and no money is
better spent for the traveller's convenience than these fifteen pauls. There was a papal military officer in the
room, and he, I believe, cheated me in the change of a Napoleon, as his share
of the spoil. At the door a soldier met
me with my passport, and looked as if he expected a fee for handing it to me;
but in this he was disappointed. After I
had resumed my seat in the coupe, the porter of the custom-house--a poor,
sickly-looking creature, half dead with the malaria of the place--appeared, and
demanded a fee for doing nothing to my luggage.
He got three pauls, and looked but half
contented. This whole
set of men seem to be as corrupt as official people can possibly be; and yet I
hardly know whether to stigmatize them as corrupt, because it is not their
individual delinquency, but the operation of a regular system. Their superiors know what men they are, and
calculate upon their getting a living by just these means. And, indeed, the custom-house and passport
regulations, as they exist in
We now began to ascend again, and the country grew fertile
and picturesque. We passed many mules
and donkeys, laden with a sort of deep firkin on each side of the saddle, and
these were heaped up with grapes, both purple and white. We bought some, and got what we should have
thought an abundance at small price, only we used to
get twice as many at Montanto for the same money. However, a Roman paul
bought us three or four pounds even here.
We still ascended, and came soon to the gateway of the town of
French soldiers, in their bluish-gray coats and scarlet
trousers, were on duty at the gate, and one of them took my passport and the
vetturino's, and we then drove into the town to wait till they should be
vised. We saw but one street, narrow,
with tall, rusty, aged houses, built of stone, evil smelling; in short, a kind
of place that would be intolerably dismal in cloudy
By and by the vetturino brought his passport and my own,
with the official vise, and we kept on our way, still ascending, passing
through vineyards and olives, and meeting grape-laden donkeys, till we came to
the town of
Descending the hill, we passed the ruins of the old town of
Reaching the plain, we drove several miles along the shore of the lake, and found the soil fertile and generally well cultivated, especially with the vine, though there were tracks apparently too marshy to be put to any agricultural purpose. We met now and then a flock of sheep, watched by sallow-looking and spiritless men and boys, who, we took it for granted, would soon perish of malaria, though, I presume, they never spend their nights in the immediate vicinity of the lake. I should like to inquire whether animals suffer from the bad qualities of the air. The lake is not nearly so beautiful on a nearer view as it is from the hill above, there being no rocky margin, nor bright, sandy beach, but everywhere this interval of level ground, and often swampy marsh, betwixt the water and the hill. At a considerable distance from the shore we saw two islands, one of which is memorable as having been the scene of an empress's murder, but I cannot stop to fill my journal with historical reminiscences.
We kept onward to the town of
There it was again,--the same narrow, dirty, time-darkened street of piled-up houses which we have so often seen; the same swarm of ill-to-do people, grape-laden donkeys, little stands or shops of roasted chestnuts, peaches, tomatoes, white and purple figs; the same evidence of a fertile land, and grimy poverty in the midst of abundance which nature tries to heap into their hands. It seems strange that they can never grasp it.
We had gone but a little way along this street, when we saw a narrow lane that turned aside from it and went steeply upward. Its name was on the corner,--the Via di Castello,--and as the castle promised to be more interesting than anything else, we immediately began to ascend. The street--a strange name for such an avenue--clambered upward in the oddest fashion, passing under arches, scrambling up steps, so that it was more like a long irregular pair of stairs than anything that Christians call a street; and so large a part of it was under arches that we scarcely seemed to be out of doors. At last U----, who was in advance, emerged into the upper air, and cried out that we had ascended to an upper town, and a larger one than that beneath.
It really seemed like coming up out of the earth into the midst of the town, when we found ourselves so unexpectedly in upper Bolsena. We were in a little nook, surrounded by old edifices, and called the Piazza del Orologio, on account of a clock that was apparent somewhere. The castle was close by, and from its platform there was a splendid view of the lake and all the near hill-country. The castle itself is still in good condition, and apparently as strong as ever it was as respects the exterior walls; but within there seemed to be neither floor nor chamber, nothing but the empty shell of the dateless old fortress. The stones at the base and lower part of the building were so massive that I should think the Etrurians must have laid them; and then perhaps the Romans built a little higher, and the mediaeval people raised the battlements and towers. But we did not look long at the castle, our attention being drawn to the singular aspect of the town itself, which--to speak first of its most prominent characteristic--is the very filthiest place, I do believe, that was ever inhabited by man. Defilement was everywhere; in the piazza, in nooks and corners, strewing the miserable lanes from side to side, the refuse of every day, and of accumulated ages. I wonder whether the ancient Romans were as dirty a people as we everywhere find those who have succeeded them; for there seems to have been something in the places that have been inhabited by Romans, or made famous in their history, and in the monuments of every kind that they have raised, that puts people in mind of their very earthliness, and incites them to defile therewith whatever temple, column, ruined palace, or triumphal arch may fall in their way. I think it must be an hereditary trait, probably weakened and robbed of a little of its horror by the influence of milder ages; and I am much afraid that Caesar trod narrower and fouler ways in his path to power than those of modern Rome, or even of this disgusting town of Bolsena. I cannot imagine anything worse than these, however. Rotten vegetables thrown everywhere about, musty straw, standing puddles, running rivulets of dissolved nastiness,--these matters were a relief amid viler objects. The town was full of great black hogs wallowing before every door, and they grunted at us with a kind of courtesy and affability as if the town were theirs, and it was their part to be hospitable to strangers. Many donkeys likewise accosted us with braying; children, growing more uncleanly every day they lived, pestered us with begging; men stared askance at us as they lounged in corners, and women endangered us with slops which they were flinging from doorways into the street. No decent words can describe, no admissible image can give an idea of this noisome place. And yet, I remember, the donkeys came up the height loaded with fruit, and with little flat-sided barrels of wine; the people had a good atmosphere--except as they polluted it themselves--on their high site, and there seemed to be no reason why they should not live a beautiful and jolly life.
I did not mean to write such an ugly description as the above, but it is well, once for all, to have attempted conveying an idea of what disgusts the traveller, more or less, in all these Italian towns.