[Transcriber's Note: Footnotes have been numbered and moved to the end.]
Letters of a Traveller;
Or, Notes of Things Seen in Europe and America
By William Cullen Bryant.
To the Reader.
The letters composing this volume were written at various times, during the last sixteen years, and during journeys made in different countries. They contain, however, no regular account of any tour or journey made by the writer, but are merely occasional sketches of what most attracted his attention. The greater part of them have already appeared in print.
The author is sensible that the highest merit such a work can claim, if ever so well executed, is but slight. He might have made these letters more interesting to readers in general, if he had spoken of distinguished men to whose society he was admitted; but the limits within which this may be done, with propriety and without offense, are so narrow, and so easily overstepped, that he has preferred to abstain altogether from that class of topics. He offers his book to the public, with expectations which will be satisfied by a very moderate success.
New York, April, 1850.
To the Reader
Letter I.—First Impressions of an American in France.—Tokens of Antiquity: churches, old towns, cottages, colleges, costumes, donkeys, shepherds and their flocks, magpies, chateaux, formal gardens, vineyards, fig-trees.—First Sight of Paris; its Gothic churches, statues, triumphal arches, monumental columns.—Parisian gaiety, public cemeteries, burial places of the poor
Letter II.—Journey from Paris to Florence.—Serenity of the Italian Climate.—Dreary country between Paris and Chalons on the Saone.—Autun. —Chalons.—Lyons.—Valley of the Rhine.—Avignon.—Marseilles; its growth and prosperity.—Banking in France.—Journey along the Mediterranean.— American and European Institutions
Letter III.—Tuscan Scenery and Climate.—Florence in Autumn.— Deformities of Cultivation.—Exhibition of the Academy of the Fine Arts.—Respect of the Italians for Works of Art
Letter IV.—A Day in Florence.—Bustle and Animation of the Place.—Sights seen on the Bridges.—Morning in Florence.—Brethren of Mercy.—Drive on the Cascine.—Evening in Florence.—Anecdote of the Passport System.—Mildness of the Climate of Pisa
Letter V.—Practices of the Italian Courts.—Mildness of the Penal Code in Tuscany.—A Royal Murderer.—Ceremonies on the Birth of an Heir to the Dukedom of Tuscany.—Wealth of the Grand Duke
Letter VI.—Venice.—Its peculiar Architecture.—Arsenal and Navy Yard.—The Lagoons.—Ceneda.—Serravalle.—Lago Morto.—Alpine Scenery.—A June Snow-Storm in the Tyrol.—Splendor of the Scenery in the Sunshine.—Landro.—A Tyrolese Holiday.—Devotional Character of the People.—Numerous Chapels.—Sterzing.—Bruneck.—The Brenner.—Innsbruck. —Bronze Tomb of Maximilian I.—Entrance into Bavaria
Letter VII.—An Excursion to Rock River in Illinois.—Birds and Quadrupeds of the Prairies.—Dad Joe's Grove.—Beautiful Landscape.—Traces of the Indian Tribes.—Lost Rocks.—Dixon.—Rock River; beauty of its banks.—A Horse-Thief.—An Association of Felons.—A Prairie Rattlesnake.—The Prairie-Wolf; its habits.—The Wild Parsnip
Letter VIII.—Examples of Lynch Law.—Practices of Horse-Thieves in Illinois.—Regulators.—A Murder.—Seizure of the Assassins, their trial and execution.—One of the Accomplices lurking in the Woods.—Another Horse-Thief shot
Letter IX.—An Example of Senatorial Decorum.—The National Museum at Washington.—Mount Vernon.—Virginia Plantations.—Beauty of Richmond.—Islands of James River.—An Old Church.—Inspection of Tobacco.—Tobacco Factory.—Work and Psalmody.—Howden's Statue of Washington.
Letter X.—Journey from Richmond to Charleston.—Pine Forests of North Carolina.—Collection of Turpentine.—Harbor of Charleston.—Aspect of the City.
Letter XI.—Interior of South Carolina.—Pine Woods.—Plantations.—Swamps. —Birds.—A Corn-Shucking.—Negro Songs.—A Negro Military Parade.— Character of the Blacks.—Winter Climate of South Carolina.
Letter XII.—Picolata.—Beauty of the Season.—The St. John's.—A Hammock.—Voyage from Charleston to Savannah.—City of Savannah.—Quoit Club.—A Negro Burial-Place.—Curious Epitaphs.—Bonaventure.—Majestic Avenues of Live-Oaks.—Alligators.—Black Creek.
Letter XIII.—Woods of Florida.—Anecdotes of the Florida War.—Aspect of St. Augustine.—Its Streets.—Former Appearance of the City.—Orange Groves.—Fort of St. Mark.—Palm Sunday.—A Frenchman preaching in Spanish.
Letter XIV.—Climate of St. Augustine.—Tampa Bay.—Melons in January.—Insects in Southern Florida.—Healthfulness of East Florida.—A Sugar Plantation.—Island of St. Anastasia.—Quarries of Shell-Rock.—Customs of the Mahonese.—A Mahonese or Minorcan hymn.
Letter XV.—Florida the "Poor Man's Country."—Settlement of the Peninsula.—The Indian War.—Its Causes.—Causes of the Peace.—The Everglades.—St. Mary's in Georgia.—Plague of Sand-Flies.—Alligator Shooting.—Tobacco Chewing.
Letter XVI.—The Champlain Canal.—Beauty of its Banks.—Whitehall.— Canadian French.—A Family setting out for the West.—The Michigan Lay.— Vermont Scenery.
Letter XVII.—Grasshoppers.—White Clover.—Domestic Arrangements of two unmarried Ladies.—Canadian French Laborers.—Quakers.—A Pretty Mantua Maker.—Anecdote told by a Quakeress.—Walpole.—Keene.—A Family of healthy young Women.
Letter XVIII.—A Voyage to Liverpool.—Mountains of Wales.—Growth of Liverpool.—Aspect of the Place.—Zoological Gardens.—Cemetery among the Rocks.—Ornamental Cultivation.—Prince's Park.—Chester.—Manchester. —Calico Printing.
Letter XIX.—Edale in Derbyshire.—A Commercial Traveller.—Chapel-en-le-Frith.—The Winnets.—Mam Tor.—Heathy Hills.—The Lark.—Caverns of the Peak of Derbyshire.—Castle of the Peverils.—People of Derbyshire.—Matlock.—Derby.
Letter XX.—Works of Art.—Power's Greek Slave.—Exhibition of the Royal Academy.—Turner's late Pictures.—Webster.—Thorburn.—New Houses of Parliament.—Artists in Water-Colors.
Letter XXI.—The Parks of London.—Their Extent.—Want of Parks in New York.—Sweeping of the Streets.—Safety from Housebreaking.—Beggars.— Increase of Poverty.
Letter XXII.—Edinburg.—The Old Town.—The Castle.—Solid Architecture of the New Town.—Views from the different Eminences.—Poverty in the Wynds and Alleys.—Houses of Refuge for the Destitute.—Night Asylums for the Houseless.—The Free Church.—The Maynooth Grant.—Effect of Endowments.
Letter XXIII.—Fishwomen of Newhaven.—Frith of Forth.—Stirling.— Callander.—The Trosachs.—Loch Achray.—Loch Katrine.—Loch Lomond. —Glenfalloch.—Dumbarton.—The Leven.
Letter XXIV.—Glasgow.—Its Annual Fair.—Its Public Statues.—The Free Church.—Free Church College.—Odd Subject of a Sermon.—Alloway.—Burns's Monument.—The Doon.—The Sea.—Burns's Birthplace.—The River Ayr.
Letter XXV.—Voyage to Ireland.—Ailsa Craig.—County of Down.—County of Lowth.—Difference in the Appearance of the Inhabitants.— Peat-Diggers.—A Park.—Samples of different Races of Men.—Round Towers.—Valley of the Boyne.—Dublin.—Its Parks.—O'Connell.—The Repeal Question.—Wall, the Artist.—Exhibition of the Royal Hibernian Society.
Letter XXVI.—Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell.—Humanity and Skill.—Quiet Demeanor of the Patients.—Anecdotes of the Inmates.—The Corn-law Question.—Coleman's Improvement on the Piano.
Letter XXVII.—Changes in Paris.—Asphaltum Pavements.—New and Showy Buildings.—Suppression of Gaming-Houses.—Sunday Amusements.—Physical Degeneracy.—Vanderlyn's Picture of the Landing of Columbus.
Letter XXVIII.—A Journey through the Netherlands.—Brussels.—Waterloo. —Walloons and Flemings.—Antwerp.—Character of Flemish Art.—The Scheldt.—Rotterdam.—Country of Holland.—The Hague.—Scheveling.— Amsterdam.—Broek Saardam.—Utrecht.
Letter XXIX.—American Artists abroad.—Duesseldorf: Leutze.—German Painters.—Florence: Greenough, Powers, Gray, G. L. Brown.—Rome: H. K. Brown, Rossiter, Lang.
Letter XXX.—Buffalo.—The New Fort.—Leopold de Meyer.—Cleveland.— Detroit.
Letter XXXI.—Trip from Detroit to Mackinaw.—The Chippewa Tribe.—The River St. Clair.—Anecdote.—Chippewa Village.—Forts Huron and Saranac.—Bob Low Island.—Mackinaw.
Letter XXXII.—Journey from Detroit to Princeton.—Sheboygan.—Milwaukie. —Chicago.—A Plunge in the Canal.—Aspect of the Country.
Letter XXXIII.—Return to Chicago.—Prairie-Hens.—Prairie Lands of Lee County.—Rock River District.
Letter XXXIV.—Voyage to Sault Ste. Marie.—Little Fort.—Indian Women gathering Rice.—Southport.—Island of St. Joseph.—Muddy Lake.—Girdled Trees.
Letter XXXV.—Falls of the St. Mary.—Masses of Copper and Silver.—Drunken Indians.—Descent of the Rapids.—Warehouses of the Hudson Bay Company.—Canadian Half-breeds.—La Maison de Pierre.—Tanner the Murderer.
Letter XXXVI.—Indians at the Sanlt.—Madeleine Island.—Indian Dancing-girls.—Methodist Indians.—Indian Families.—Return to Mackinaw.
Letter XXXVII.—The Straits of Mackinaw.—American Fur Company.—Peculiar Boats.—British Landing.—Battle-field.—Old Mission Church.—Arched Rock.
Letter XXXVIII.—Excursion to Southern New Jersey.—Easton.—The Delaware.—The Water Gap.—Bite of a Copper-head snake.
Letter XXXIX.—The Banks of the Pocano.—Deer in the Laurel Swamps.—Cherry Hollow.—The Wind Gap.—Nazareth.—Moravian Burying Grounds.—A Pennsylvania German.
Letter XL.—Paint on Brick Houses.—The New City of Lawrence.—Oak Grove.
Letter XLI.—Islands of Casco Bay.—The Building of Ships.—A Seal in the Kennebeck.—Augusta.—Multitude of Lakes.—Appearances of Thrift.
Letter XLII.—The Willey House.—Mount Washington.—Scenery of the White Mountains.—A Hen Mother of Puppies.
Letter XLIII.—Passage to Savannah.—Passengers in the Steamer.—Old Times in Connecticut.—Cape Hatteras.—Savannah.—Bonaventure.—Charleston.— Augusta.
Letter XLIV.—Southern Cotton Mills.—Factory Girls.—Somerville.
Letter XLV.—The Florida Coast.—Key West.—Dangerous Navigation.—A Hurricane and Flood.—Havana.
Letter XLVI.—Women of Cuba.—Airy Rooms.—Devotion of the Women.—Good Friday.—Cascarilla.—Cemetery of Havana.—Funerals.—Cock-fighting.— Valla de Gallos.—A Masked Ball.
Letter XLVII.—Scenery of Cuba.—Its Trees.—Sweet-Potato Plantation.—San Antonio de los Barios.—Black and Red Soil of Cuba.—A Coffee Estate.— Attire of the Cubans.
Letter XLVIII.—Matanzas.—Valley of Yumuri.—Cumbre.—Sugar Estate.—Process of its Manufacture.
Letter XLIX.—Negroes in Cuba.—Execution by the Garrote.—Slave Market.—African, Indian, and Asiatic Slaves.—Free Blacks in Cuba.—Annexation of Cuba to the United States.
Letter L.—English Exhibitions of Works of Art.—The Society of Arts.—Royal Academy.—Jews in Parliament.
Letter LI.—A Visit to the Shetland Isles.—Highland Fishermen.—Lerwick. —Church-goers in Shetland.—Habitations of the Islanders.—The Noup of the Noss.—Sheep and Ponies.—Pictish Castle.—The Zetlanders.—A Gale in the North Sea.—Cathedral of St. Magnus.—Wick.
Letter LII.—Europe under the Bayonet.—Uses of the State of Siege.—The Hungarians.—Bavaria.—St. Gall.—Zurich.—Target-shooting.—France.— French Expedition to Rome.
Letter LIII.—Volterra; its Desolation.—The Balza.—Etruscan Remains.—Fortress of Volterra.
Letters of a Traveller.
First Impressions of an American in France.
Paris, August 9, 1834.
Since we first landed in France, every step of our journey has reminded us that we were in an old country. Every thing we saw spoke of the past, of an antiquity without limit; everywhere our eyes rested on the handiwork of those who had been dead for ages, and we were in the midst of customs which they had bequeathed to their descendants. The churches were so vast, so solid, so venerable, and time-eaten; the dwellings so gray, and of such antique architecture, and in the large towns, like Rouen, rose so high, and overhung with such quaint projections the narrow and cavernous streets; the thatched cots were so mossy and so green with grass! The very hills about them looked scarcely as old, for there was youth in their vegetation—their shrubs and flowers. The countrywomen wore such high caps, such long waists, and such short petticoats!—the fashion of bonnets is an innovation of yesterday, which they regard with scorn. We passed females riding on donkeys, the Old Testament beast of burden, with panniers on each side, as was the custom hundreds of years since. We saw ancient dames sitting at their doors with distaffs, twisting the thread by twirling the spindle between the thumb and finger, as they did in the days of Homer. A flock of sheep was grazing on the side of a hill; they were attended by a shepherd, and a brace of prick-eared dogs, which kept them from straying, as was done thousands of years ago. Speckled birds were hopping by the sides of the road; it was the magpie, the bird of ancient fable. Flocks of what I at first took for the crow of our country were stalking in the fields, or sailing in the air over the old elms; it was the rook, the bird made as classical by Addison as his cousin the raven by the Latin poets.
Then there were the old chateaus on the hills, built with an appearance of military strength, their towers and battlements telling of feudal times. The groves by which they were surrounded were for the most part clipped into regular walls, and pierced with regularly arched passages, leading in various directions, and the trees compelled by the shears to take the shape of obelisks and pyramids, or other fantastic figures, according to the taste of the middle ages. As we drew nearer to Paris, we saw the plant which Noah first committed to the earth after the deluge—you know what that was I hope—trained on low stakes, and growing thickly and luxuriantly on the slopes by the side of the highway. Here, too, was the tree which was the subject of the first Christian miracle, the fig, its branches heavy with the bursting fruit just beginning to ripen for the market.
But when we entered Paris, and passed the Barriere d'Etoile, with its lofty triumphal arch; when we swept through the arch of Neuilly, and came in front of the Hotel des Invalides, where the aged or maimed soldiers, the living monuments of so many battles, were walking or sitting under the elms of its broad esplanade; when we saw the colossal statues of statesmen and warriors frowning from their pedestals on the bridges which bestride the muddy and narrow channel of the Seine; when we came in sight of the gray pinnacles of the Tuilleries, and the Gothic towers of Notre-Dame, and the Roman ones of St. Sulpice, and the dome of the Pantheon, under which lie the remains of so many of the great men of France, and the dark column of Place Vendome, wrought with figures in relief, and the obelisk brought from Egypt to ornament the Place Louis Quatorze, the associations with antiquity which the country presents, from being general, became particular and historical. They were recollections of power, and magnificence, and extended empire; of valor and skill in war which had held the world in fear; of dynasties that had risen and passed away; of battles and victories which had left no other fruits than their monuments.
The solemnity of these recollections does not seem to press with much weight upon the minds of the people. It has been said that the French have become a graver nation than formerly; if so, what must have been their gayety a hundred years ago? To me they seem as light-hearted and as easily amused as if they had done nothing but make love and quiz their priests since the days of Louis XIV.—as if their streets had never flowed with the blood of Frenchmen shed by their brethren—as if they had never won and lost a mighty empire. I can not imagine the present generation to be less gay than that which listened to the comedies of Moliere at their first representation; particularly when I perceive that even Moliere's pieces are too much burdened with thought for a Frenchman of the present day, and that he prefers the lighter and more frivolous vaudeville. The Parisian has his amusements as regularly as his meals, the theatre, music, the dance, a walk in the Tuilleries, a refection in the cafe, to which ladies resort as commonly as the other sex. Perpetual business, perpetual labor, is a thing of which he seems to have no idea. I wake in the middle of the night, and I hear the fiddle going, and the sound of feet keeping time, in some of the dependencies of the large building near the Tuilleries, in which I have my lodgings.
When a generation of Frenchmen
"Have played, and laughed, and danced, and drank their fill"—
when they have seen their allotted number of vaudevilles and swallowed their destined allowance of weak wine and bottled small-beer, they are swept off to the cemetery of Montmartre, or of Pere la Chaise, or some other of the great burial-places which lie just without the city. I went to visit the latter of these the other day. You are reminded of your approach to it by the rows of stone-cutters' shops on each side of the street, with a glittering display of polished marble monuments. The place of the dead is almost a gayer-looking spot than the ordinary haunts of Parisian life. It is traversed with shady walks of elms and limes, and its inmates lie amidst thickets of ornamental shrubs and plantations of the most gaudy flowers. Their monuments are hung with wreaths of artificial flowers, or of those natural ones which do not lose their color and shape in drying, like the amaranth and the ever-lasting. Parts of the cemetery seem like a city in miniature; the sepulchral chapels, through the windows of which you see crucifixes and tapers, stand close to each other beside the path, intermingled with statues and busts.
There is one part of this repository of the dead which is little visited, that in which the poor are buried, where those who have dwelt apart from their more fortunate fellow-creatures in life lie apart in death. Here are no walks, no shade of trees, no planted shrubbery, but ridges of raw earth, and tufts of coarse herbage show where the bodies are thrown together under a thin covering of soil. I was about to walk over the spot, but was repelled by the sickening exhalations that rose from it.
A Journey to Florence.
Florence, Sept 27, 1834.
I have now been in this city a fortnight, and have established myself in a suite of apartments lately occupied, as the landlord told me, in hopes I presume of getting a higher rent, by a Russian prince. The Arno flows, or rather stands still, under my windows, for the water is low, and near the western wall of the city is frugally dammed up to preserve it for the public baths. Beyond, this stream so renowned in history and poetry, is at this season but a feeble rill, almost lost among the pebbles of its bed, and scarcely sufficing to give drink to the pheasants and hares of the Grand Duke's Cascine on its banks. Opposite my lodgings, at the south end of the Ponte alla Carraia, is a little oratory, before the door of which every good Catholic who passes takes off his hat with a gesture of homage; and at this moment a swarthy, weasel-faced man, with a tin box in his hand, is gathering contributions to pay for the services of the chapel, rattling his coin to attract the attention of the pedestrians, and calling out to those who seem disposed to pass without paying. To the north and west, the peaks of the Appenines are in full sight, rising over the spires of the city and the groves of the Cascine. Every evening I see them through the soft, delicately-colored haze of an Italian sunset, looking as if they had caught something of the transparency of the sky, and appearing like mountains of fairy-land, instead of the bleak and barren ridges of rock which they really are. The weather since my arrival in Tuscany has been continually serene, the sky wholly cloudless, and the temperature uniform—oppressively warm in the streets at noon, delightful at morning and evening, with a long, beautiful, golden twilight, occasioned by the reflection of light from the orange-colored haze which invests the atmosphere. Every night I am reminded that I am in the land of song, for until two o'clock in the morning I hear "all manner of tunes" chanted by people in the streets in all manner of voices.
I believe I have given you no account of our journey from Paris to this place. That part of it which lay between Paris and Chalons, on the Saone, may be described in a very few words. Monotonous plains, covered with vineyards and wheat-fields, with very few trees, and those spoiled by being lopped for fuel—sunburnt women driving carts or at work in the fields—gloomy, cheerless-looking towns, with narrow, filthy streets—troops of beggars surrounding your carriage whenever you stop, or whenever the nature of the roads obliges the horses to walk, and chanting their requests in the most doleful whine imaginable—such are the sights and sounds that meet you for the greater part of two hundred and fifty miles. There are, however, some exceptions as to the aspect of the country. Autun, one of the most ancient towns of France, and yet retaining some remains of Roman architecture, lies in a beautiful and picturesque region. A little beyond that town we ascended a hill by a road winding along a glen, the rocky sides of which were clothed with an unpruned wood, and a clear stream ran dashing over the stones, now on one side of the road and then on the other—the first instance of a brook left to follow its natural channel which I had seen in France. Two young Frenchmen, who were our fellow-passengers, were wild with delight at this glimpse of unspoiled nature. They followed the meanderings of the stream, leaping from rock to rock, and shouting till the woods rang again.
Of Chalons I have nothing to tell you. Abelard died there, and his tomb was erected with that of Eloise in the church of St. Marcel; but the church is destroyed, and the monument has been transported to the cemetery of Pere la Chaise, and with it all the poetry of the place is vanished. But if you would make yourself supremely uncomfortable, travel as I did in a steamboat down the Saone from Chalons to Lyons, on a rainy day. Crowded into a narrow, dirty cabin, with benches on each side and a long table in the middle, at which a set of Frenchmen with their hats on are playing cards and eating dejeuners a la fourchette all day long, and deafening you with their noise, while waiters are running against your legs and treading on your toes every moment, and the water is dropping on your head through the cracks of the deck-floor, you would be forced to admit the superlative misery of such a mode of travelling. The approach to Lyons, however, made some amends for these inconveniences. The shores of the river, hitherto low and level, began to rise into hills, broken with precipices and crowned by castles, some in ruins and others entire, and seemingly a part of the very rocks on which they stood, so old and mossy and strong did they seem. What struck me most in Lyons was the superiority of its people in looks and features to the inhabitants of Paris—the clatter and jar of silk-looms with which its streets resounded—and the picturesque beauty of its situation, placed as it is among steeps and rocks, with the quiet Saone on one side, and the swiftly-running Rhone on the other. In our journey from Lyons to Marseilles we travelled by land instead of taking the steamboat, as is commonly done as far as Avignon. The common books of travels will tell you how numerous are the ruins of feudal times perched upon the heights all along the Rhone, remnants of fortresses and castles, overlooking a vast extent of country and once serving as places of refuge to the cultivators of the soil who dwelt in their vicinity—how frequently also are to be met with the earlier yet scarcely less fresh traces of Roman colonization and dominion, in gateways, triumphal arches, walls, and monuments—how on entering Provence you find yourself among a people of a different physiognomy from those of the northern provinces, speaking a language which rather resembles Italian than French—how the beauty of the women of Avignon still does credit to the taste of the clergy, who made that city for more than half a century the seat of the Papal power—and how, as you approach the shores of the Mediterranean, the mountains which rise from the fruitful valleys shoot up in wilder forms, until their summits become mere pinnacles of rock wholly bare of vegetation.
Marseilles is seated in the midst of a semicircle of mountains of whitish rock, the steep and naked sides of which scarce afford "a footing for the goat." Stretching into the Mediterranean they inclose a commodious harbor, in front of which are two or three rocky islands anchored in a sea of more vivid blue than any water I had ever before seen. The country immediately surrounding the city is an arid and dusty valley, intersected here and there with the bed of a brook or torrent, dry during the summer. It is carefully cultivated, however, and planted with vineyards, and orchards of olive, fig, and pomegranate trees. The trees being small and low, the foliage of the olive thin and pale, the leaves of the fig broad and few, and the soil appearing everywhere at their roots, as well as between the rows of vines, the vegetation, when viewed from a little distance, has a meagre and ragged appearance. The whiteness of the hills, which the eye can hardly bear to rest upon at noon, the intense blue of the sea, the peculiar forms of the foliage, and the deficiency of shade and verdure, made me almost fancy myself in a tropical region.
The Greeks judged well of the commercial advantages of Marseilles when they made it the seat of one of their early colonies. I found its streets animated with a bustle which I had not seen since I left New York, and its port thronged with vessels from all the nations whose coasts border upon the great midland sea of Europe. Marseilles is the most flourishing seaport in France; it has already become to the Mediterranean what New York is to the United States, and its trade is regularly increasing. The old town is ugly, but the lower or new part is nobly built of the light-colored stone so commonly used in France, and so easily wrought—with broad streets and, what is rare in French towns, convenient sidewalks. New streets are laid out, gardens are converted into building-lots, the process of leveling hills and filling up hollows is going on as in New York, the city is extending itself on every side, and large fortunes have been made by the rise in the value of landed property.
In a conversation with an intelligent gentleman resident at Marseilles and largely engaged in commercial and moneyed transactions, the subject of the United States Bank was mentioned. Opinions in France, on this question of our domestic politics, differ according as the opportunities of information possessed by the individual are more or less ample, or as he is more or less in favor of chartered banks. The gentleman remarked that without any reference to the question of the United States Bank, he hoped the day would never come when such an institution would be established in France. The project he said had some advocates, but they had not yet succeeded, and he hoped never would succeed in the introduction of that system of paper currency which prevailed in the United States. He deprecated the dangerous and uncertain facilities of obtaining credit which are the fruit of that system, which produce the most ruinous fluctuations in commerce, encourage speculation and extravagance of all kinds, and involve the prudent and laborious in the ruin which falls upon the rash and reckless. He declared himself satisfied with the state of the currency of France, with which, if fortunes were not suddenly built up they were not suddenly overthrown, and periods of apparent prosperity were not followed by seasons of real distress.
I made the journey from Marseilles to Florence by land. How grand and wild are the mountains that overlook the Mediterranean; how intense was the heat as we wound our way along the galleries of rock cut to form a road; how excellent are the fruits, and how thick the mosquitoes at Nice; how sumptuous are the palaces, how narrow and dark the streets, and how pallid the dames of Genoa; and how beautiful we found our path among the trees overrun with vines as we approached southern Italy, are matters which I will take some other opportunity of relating. On the 12th of September our vetturino set us down safe at the Hotel de l'Europe in Florence.
I think I shall return to America even a better patriot than when I left it. A citizen of the United States travelling on the continent of Europe, finds the contrast between a government of power and a government of opinion forced upon him at every step. He finds himself delayed at every large town and at every frontier of a kingdom or principality, to submit to a strict examination of the passport with which the jealousy of the rulers of these countries has compelled him to furnish himself. He sees everywhere guards and sentinels armed to the teeth, stationed in the midst of a population engaged in their ordinary occupations in a time of profound peace; and to supply the place of the young and robust thus withdrawn from the labors of agriculture he beholds women performing the work of the fields. He sees the many retained in a state of hopeless dependence and poverty, the effect of institutions forged by the ruling class to accumulate wealth in their own hands. The want of self-respect in the inferior class engendered by this state of things, shows itself in the acts of rapacity and fraud which the traveller meets with throughout France and Italy, and, worse still, in the shameless corruption of the Italian custom-houses, the officers of which regularly solicit a paltry bribe from every passenger as the consideration of leaving his baggage unexamined. I am told that in this place the custom of giving presents extends even to the courts of justice, the officers of which, from the highest to the lowest, are in the constant practice of receiving them. No American can see how much jealousy and force on the one hand, and necessity and fear on the other, have to do with keeping up the existing governments of Europe, without thanking heaven that such is not the condition of his own country.
Tuscan Scenery and Climate.
Florence, October 11, 1834.
The bridge over the Arno, immediately under my window, is the spot from which Cole's fine landscape, which you perhaps remember seeing in the exhibition of our Academy, was taken. It gives, you may recollect, a view of the Arno travelling off towards the west, its banks overhung with trees, the mountain-ridges rising in the distance, and above them the sky flushed with the colors of sunset. The same rich hues I behold every evening in the quarter where they were seen by the artist when he made them permanent on his canvas.
There is a great deal of prattle about Italian skies: the skies and clouds of Italy, so far as I have had an opportunity of judging, do not present so great a variety of beautiful appearances as our own; but the Italian atmosphere is far more uniformly fine than ours. Not to speak of its astonishing clearness, it is pervaded by a certain warmth of color which enriches every object. This is more remarkable about the time of sunset, when the mountains put on an aerial aspect, as if they belonged to another and fairer world; and a little after the sun has gone down, the air is flushed with a glory which seems to transfigure all that it incloses. Many of the fine old palaces of Florence, you know, are built in a gloomy though grand style of architecture, of a dark-colored stone, massive and lofty, and overlooking narrow streets that lie in almost perpetual shade. But at the hour of which I am speaking, the bright warm radiance reflected from the sky to the earth, fills the darkest lanes, streams into the most shadowy nooks, and makes the prison-like structures glitter as with a brightness of their own.
It is now nearly the middle of October, and we have had no frost. The strong summer heats which prevailed when I came hither, have by the slowest gradations subsided into an agreeable autumnal temperature. The trees keep their verdure, but I perceive their foliage growing thinner, and when I walk in the Cascine on the other side of the Arno, the rustling of the lizards, as they run among the heaps of crisp leaves, reminds me that the autumn is wearing away, though the ivy which clothes the old elms has put forth a profuse array of blossoms, and the walks murmur with bees like our orchards in spring. As I look along the declivities of the Appenines, I see the raw earth every day more visible between the ranks of olive-trees and the well-pruned maples which support the vines.
If I have found my expectations of Italian scenery, in some respects, below the reality, in other respects they have been disappointed. The forms of the mountains are wonderfully picturesque, and their effect is heightened by the rich atmosphere through which they are seen, and by the buildings, imposing from their architecture or venerable from time, which crown the eminences. But if the hand of man has done something to embellish this region, it has done more to deform it. Not a tree is suffered to retain its natural shape, not a brook to flow in its natural channel. An exterminating war is carried on against the natural herbage of the soil. The country is without woods and green fields; and to him who views the vale of the Arno "from the top of Fiesole," or any of the neighboring heights, grand as he will allow the circle of the mountains to be, and magnificent the edifices with which the region is adorned, it appears, at any time after midsummer, a huge valley of dust, planted with low rows of the pallid and thin-leaved olive, or the more dwarfish maple on which the vines are trained. The simplicity of nature, so far as can be done, is destroyed; there is no fine sweep of forest, no broad expanse of meadow or pasture ground, no ancient and towering trees clustered about the villas, no rows of natural shrubbery following the course of the brooks and rivers. The streams, which are often but the beds of torrents dry during the summer, are confined in straight channels by stone walls and embankments; the slopes are broken up and disfigured by terraces; and the trees are kept down by constant pruning and lopping, until half way up the sides of the Appenines, where the limit of cultivation is reached, and thence to the summit is a barren steep of rock, without herbage or soil. The grander features of the landscape, however, are fortunately beyond the power of man to injure; the lofty mountain-summits, bare precipices cleft with chasms, and pinnacles of rock piercing the sky, betokening, far more than any thing I have seen elsewhere, a breaking up of the crust of the globe in some early period of its existence. I am told that in May and June the country is much more beautiful than at present, and that owing to a drought it now appears under a particular disadvantage.
The Academy of the Fine Arts has had its exhibition since I arrived. In its rooms, which were gratuitously open to the public, I found a large crowd of gazers at the pictures and statues. Many had come to look at some work ordered by an acquaintance; others made the place a morning lounge. In the collection were some landscapes by Morghen, the son of the celebrated engraver, very fresh and clear; a few pieces sent by Bezzoli, one of the most eminent Italian painters of his time; a statue of Galileo, not without merit, by Costoli, for there is always a Galileo or two, I believe, at every exhibition of the kind in Florence; portraits good, bad, and indifferent, in great abundance, and many square feet of canvas spoiled by attempts at historical painting.
Let me remark, by the way, that a work of art is a sacred thing in the eyes of Italians of all classes, never to be defaced, never to be touched, a thing to be looked at merely. A statue may stand for ages in a public square, within the reach of any one who passes, and with no sentinel to guard it, and yet it shall not only be safe from mutilation, but the surface of the marble shall never be scratched, or even irreverently scored with a lead pencil. So general is this reverence for art, that the most perfect confidence is reposed in it. I remember that in Paris, as I was looking at a colossal plaster cast of Napoleon at the Hotel des Invalides, a fellow armed with a musket who stood by it bolt upright, in the stiff attitude to which the soldier is drilled, gruffly reminded me that I was too near, though I was not within four feet of it. In Florence it is taken for granted that you will do no mischief, and therefore you are not watched.
A Day in Florence.
Pisa, December 11, 1834.
It is gratifying to be able to communicate a piece of political intelligence from so quiet a nook of the world as this. Don Miguel arrived here the other day from Genoa, where you know there was a story that he and the Duchess of Berri, a hopeful couple, were laying their heads together. He went to pay his respects to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who is now at Pisa, and it was said by the gossips of the place that he was coldly received, and was given to understand that he could not be allowed to remain in the Tuscan territory. There was probably nothing in all this. Don Miguel has now departed for Rome, and the talk of to-day is that he will return before the end of the winter. He is doubtless wandering about to observe in what manner he is received at the petty courts which are influenced by the Austrian policy, and in the mean time lying in wait for some favorable opportunity of renewing his pretensions to the crown of Spain.
Pisa offers a greater contrast to Florence than I had imagined could exist between two Italian cities. This is the very seat of idleness and slumber; while Florence, from being the residence of the Court, and from the vast number of foreigners who throng to it, presents during several months of the year an appearance of great bustle and animation. Four thousand English, an American friend tells me, visit Florence every winter, to say nothing of the occasional residents from France, Germany, and Russia. The number of visitors from the latter country is every year increasing, and the echoes of the Florence gallery have been taught to repeat the strange accents of the Sclavonic. Let me give you the history of a fine day in October, passed at the window of my lodgings on the Lung' Arno, close to the bridge Alla Carraja. Waked by the jangling of all the bells in Florence and by the noise of carriages departing loaded with travellers, for Rome and other places in the south of Italy, I rise, dress myself, and take my place at the window. I see crowds of men and women from the country, the former in brown velvet jackets, and the latter in broad-brimmed straw hats, driving donkeys loaded with panniers or trundling hand-carts before them, heaped with grapes, figs, and all the fruits of the orchard, the garden, and the field. They have hardly passed, when large flocks of sheep and goats make their appearance, attended by shepherds and their families, driven by the approach of winter from the Appenines, and seeking the pastures of the Maremma, a rich, but, in the summer, an unhealthy tract on the coast; The men and boys are dressed in knee-breeches, the women in bodices, and both sexes wear capotes with pointed hoods, and felt hats with conical crowns; they carry long staves in their hands, and their arms are loaded with kids and lambs too young to keep pace with their mothers. After the long procession of sheep and goats and dogs and men and women and children, come horses loaded with cloths and poles for tents, kitchen utensils, and the rest of the younglings of the flock. A little after sunrise I see well-fed donkeys, in coverings of red cloth, driven over the bridge to be milked for invalids. Maid-servants, bareheaded, with huge high carved combs in their hair, waiters of coffee-houses carrying the morning cup of coffee or chocolate to their customers, baker's boys with a dozen loaves on a board balanced on their heads, milkmen with rush baskets filled with flasks of milk, are crossing the streets in all directions. A little later the bell of the small chapel opposite to my window rings furiously for a quarter of an hour, and then I hear mass chanted in a deep strong nasal tone. As the day advances, the English, in white hats and white pantaloons, come out of their lodgings, accompanied sometimes by their hale and square-built spouses, and saunter stiffly along the Arno, or take their way to the public galleries and museums. Their massive, clean, and brightly-polished carriages also begin to rattle through the streets, setting out on excursions to some part of the environs of Florence—to Fiesole, to the Pratolino, to the Bello Sguardo, to the Poggio Imperiale. Sights of a different kind now present themselves. Sometimes it is a troop of stout Franciscan friars, in sandals and brown robes, each carrying his staff and wearing a brown broad-brimmed hat with a hemispherical crown. Sometimes it is a band of young theological students, in purple cassocks with red collars and cuffs, let out on a holiday, attended by their clerical instructors, to ramble in the Cascine. There is a priest coming over the bridge, a man of venerable age and great reputation for sanctity—the common people crowd around him to kiss his hand, and obtain a kind word from him as he passes. But what is that procession of men in black gowns, black gaiters, and black masks, moving swiftly along, and bearing on their shoulders a litter covered with black cloth? These are the Brethren of Mercy, who have assembled at the sound of the cathedral bell, and are conveying some sick or wounded person to the hospital. As the day begins to decline, the numbers of carriages in the streets, filled with gaily-dressed people attended by servants in livery, increases. The Grand Duke's equipage, an elegant carriage drawn by six horses, with coachmen, footmen, and outriders in drab-colored livery, comes from the Pitti Palace, and crosses the Arno, either by the bridge close to my lodgings, or by that called Alla Santa Trinita, which is in full sight from the windows. The Florentine nobility, with their families, and the English residents, now throng to the Cascine, to drive at a slow pace through its thickly-planted walks of elms, oaks, and ilexes. As the sun is sinking I perceive the Quay, on the other side of the Arno, filled with a moving crowd of well-dressed people, walking to and fro, and enjoying the beauty of the evening. Travellers now arrive from all quarters, in cabriolets, in calashes, in the shabby vettura, and in the elegant private carriage drawn by post-horses, and driven by postillions in the tightest possible deer-skin breeches, the smallest red coats, and the hugest jack-boots. The streets about the doors of the hotels resound with the cracking of whips and the stamping of horses, and are encumbered with carriages, heaps of baggage, porters, postillions, couriers, and travellers. Night at length arrives—the time of spectacles and funerals. The carriages rattle towards the opera-houses. Trains of people, sometimes in white robes and sometimes in black, carrying blazing torches and a cross elevated on a high pole before a coffin, pass through the streets chanting the service for the dead. The Brethren of Mercy may also be seen engaged in their office. The rapidity of their pace, the flare of their torches, the gleam of their eyes through their masks, and their sable garb, give them a kind of supernatural appearance. I return to bed, and fall asleep amidst the shouts of people returning from the opera, singing as they go snatches of the music with which they had been entertained during the evening.
Such is a picture of what passes every day at Florence—in Pisa, on the contrary, all is stagnation and repose—even the presence of the sovereign, who usually passes a part of the winter here, is incompetent to give a momentary liveliness to the place. The city is nearly as large as Florence, with not a third of its population; the number of strangers is few; most of them are invalids, and the rest are the quietest people in the world. The rattle of carriages is rarely heard in the streets; in some of which there prevails a stillness so complete that you might imagine them deserted of their inhabitants. I have now been here three weeks, and on one occasion only have I seen the people of the place awakened to something like animation. It was the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin; the Lung' Arno was strewn with boughs of laurel and myrtle, and the Pisan gentry promenaded for an hour under my window.
On my leaving Florence an incident occurred, which will illustrate the manner of doing public business in this country. I had obtained my passport from the Police Office, vised for Pisa. It was then Friday, and I was told that it would answer until ten o'clock on Tuesday morning. Unluckily I did not present myself at the Leghorn gate of Florence until eleven o'clock on that day. A young man in a military hat, sword, and blue uniform, came to the carriage and asked for my passport, which I handed him. In a short time he appeared again and desired me to get out and go with him to the apartment in the side of the gate. I went and saw a middle-aged man dressed in the same manner, sitting at the table with my passport before him. "I am sorry," said he, "to say that your passport is not regular, and that my duty compels me to detain you." "What is the matter with the passport?" "The vise is of more than three days standing." I exerted all my eloquence to persuade him that an hour was of no consequence, and that the public welfare would not suffer by letting me pass, but he remained firm. "The law," he said, "is positive; I am compelled to execute it. If I were to suffer you to depart, and my superiors were to know it, I should lose my office and incur the penalty of five days' imprisonment."
I happened to have a few coins in my pocket, and putting in my hand, I caused them to jingle a little against each other. "Your case is a hard one," said the officer, "I suppose you are desirous to get on." "Yes—my preparations are all made, and it will be a great inconvenience for me to remain." "What say you," he called out to his companion who stood in the door looking into the street, "shall we let them pass? They seem to be decent people." The young man mumbled some sort of answer. "Here," said the officer, holding out to me my passport, but still keeping it between his thumb and finger, "I give you back your passport, and consent to your leaving Florence, but I wish you particularly to consider that in so doing, I risk the loss of my place and an imprisonment of five days." He then put the paper into my hand, and I put into his the expected gratuity. As I went to the carriage, he followed and begged me to say nothing of the matter to any one. I was admitted into Pisa with less difficulty. It was already dark; I expected that my baggage would undergo a long examination as usual; and I knew that I had some dutiable articles. To my astonishment, however, my trunks were allowed to pass without being opened, or even the payment of the customary gratuity. I was told afterwards that my Italian servant had effected this by telling the custom-house officers some lie about my being the American Minister.
Pisa has a delightful winter climate, though Madame de Stael has left on record a condemnation of it, having passed here a season of unusually bad weather. Orange and lemon trees grow in the open air, and are now loaded with ripe fruit. The fields in the environs are green with grass nourished by abundant rains, and are spotted with daisies in blossom. Crops of flax and various kinds of pulse are showing themselves above the ground, a circumstance sufficient to show that the cultivators expect nothing like what we call winter.
Practices of the Italian Courts.
Florence, May 12, 1835.
Night before last, a man-child was born to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and yesterday was a day of great rejoicing in consequence. The five hundred bells of Florence kept up a horrid ringing through the day, and in the evening the public edifices and many private houses were illuminated. To-day and to-morrow the rejoicings continue, and in the mean time the galleries and museums are closed, lest idle people should amuse themselves rationally. The Tuscans are pleased with the birth of an heir to the Dukedom, first because the succession is likely to be kept in a good sort of a family, and secondly because for want of male children it would have reverted to the House of Austria, and the province would have been governed by a foreigner. I am glad of it, also, for the sake of the poor Tuscans, who are a mild people, and if they must be under a despotism, deserve to live under a good-natured one.
An Austrian Prince, if he were to govern Tuscany as the Emperor governs the Lombardo-Venetian territory, would introduce a more just and efficient system of administering the laws between man and man, but at the same time a more barbarous severity to political offenders. I saw at Volterra, last spring, four persons who were condemned at Florence for an alleged conspiracy against the state. They were walking with instruments of music in their hands, on the top of the fortress, which commands an extensive view of mountain, vale, and sea, including the lower Val d'Arno, and reaching to Leghorn, and even to Corsica. They were well-dressed, and I was assured their personal comfort was attended to. A different treatment is the fate of the state prisoners who languish in the dungeons of Austria. In Tuscany no man's life is taken for any offense whatever, and banishment is a common sentence against those who are deemed dangerous or intractable subjects. In all the other provinces a harsher system prevails. In Sardinia capital executions for political causes are frequent, and long and mysterious detentions are resorted to, as in Lombardy, with a view to strike terror into the minds of a discontented people.
The royal family of Naples kill people by way of amusement. Prince Charles, a brother of the king, sometime in the month of April last, found an old man cutting myrtle twigs on some of the royal hunting-grounds, of which he has the superintendence. He directed his attendants to seize the offender and tie him to a tree, and when they had done this ordered them to shoot him. This they refused, upon which he took a loaded musket from the hands of one of them, and with the greatest deliberation shot him dead upon the spot. His Royal Highness soon after set out for Rome to amuse himself with the ceremonies of the Holy Week, and to figure at the balls given by Torlonia and other Roman nobles, where he signalized himself by his attentions to the English ladies.
Of the truth of the story I have related I have been assured by several respectable persons in Naples. About the middle of May I was at the spot where the murder was said to have been committed. It was on the borders of the lake of Agnano. We reached it by a hollow winding road, cut deep through the hills and rocks thousands of years ago. It was a pretty and solitary spot; a neat pavilion of the royal family stood on the shore, and the air was fragrant with the blossoms of the white clover and the innumerable flowers which the soil of Italy, for a short season before the summer heats and drought, pours forth so profusely. The lake is evidently the crater of an old volcano: it lies in a perfect bowl of hills, and the perpetual escape of gas, bubbling up through the water, shows that the process of chemical decomposition in the earth below has not yet ceased. Close by, in the side of the circular hill that surrounds the lake, stands the famous Grotto del Cane, closed with a door to enable the keeper to get a little money from the foreigners who come to visit it. You may be sure I was careful not to trim any of the myrtles with my penknife.
But to return to Tuscany—it is after all little better than an Austrian province, like the other countries of Italy. The Grand Duke is a near relative of the Emperor; he has the rank of colonel in the Austrian service, and a treaty of offense and defense obliges him to take part in the wars of Austria to the extent of furnishing ten thousand soldiers. It is well understood that he is watched by the agents of the Austrian Government here, who form a sort of high police, to which he and his cabinet are subject, and that he would not venture upon any measure of national policy, nor even displace or appoint a minister, without the consent of Metternich.
The birth of a son to the Grand Duke has been signalized, I have just learned, by a display of princely munificence. Five thousand crowns have been presented to the Archbishop who performed the ceremony of christening the child; the servants of the ducal household have received two months' wages, in addition to their usual salary; five hundred young women have received marriage portions of thirty crowns each; all the articles of property at the great pawnbroking establishments managed by goverment, pledged for a less sum than four livres, have been restored to the owners without payment; and finally, all persons confined for larceny and other offences of a less degree than homicide and other enormous crimes, have been liberated and turned loose upon society again. The Grand Duke can well afford to be generous, for from a million and three hundred thousand people he draws, by taxation, four millions of crowns annually, of which a million only is computed to be expended in the military and civil expenses of his government. The remainder is of course applied to keeping up the state of a prince and to the enriching of his family. He passes, you know, for one of the richest potentates in Europe.
Munich, August 6, 1835.
Since my last letter I have visited Venice, a city which realizes the old mythological fable of beauty born of the sea. I must confess, however, that my first feeling on entering it was that of disappointment. As we passed in our gondola out of the lagoons, up one of the numerous canals, which, permeate the city in every direction in such a manner that it seems as if you could only pass your time either within doors or in a boat, the place appeared to me a vast assemblage of prisons surrounded with their moats, and I thought how weary I should soon grow of my island prison, and how glad to escape again to the main-land. But this feeling quickly gave way to delight and admiration, when I landed and surveyed the clean though narrow streets, never incommoded by dust nor disturbed by the noise and jostling of carriages and horses, by which you may pass to every part of the city—when I looked again at the rows of superb buildings, with their marble steps ascending out of the water of the canals, in which the gondolas were shooting by each other—when I stood in the immense square of St. Mark, surrounded by palaces resting on arcades, under which the shops rival in splendor those of Paris, and crowds of the gay inhabitants of both sexes assemble towards evening and sit in groups before the doors of the coffee-houses—and when I gazed on the barbaric magnificence of the church of St. Mark and the Doge's palace, surrounded by the old emblems of the power of Venice, and overlooking the Adriatic, once the empire of the republic. The architecture of Venice has to my eyes, something watery and oceanic in its aspect. Under the hands of Palladio, the Grecian orders seemed to borrow the lightness and airiness of the Gothic. As you look at the numerous windows and the multitude of columns which give a striated appearance to the fronts of the palaces, you think of stalactites and icicles, such as you might imagine to ornament the abodes of the water-gods and sea-nymphs. The only thing needed to complete the poetic illusion is transparency or brilliancy of color, and this is wholly wanting; for at Venice the whitest marble is soon clouded and blackened by the corrosion of the sea-air.
It is not my intention, however, to do so hackneyed a thing as to give a description of Venice. One thing, I must confess, seemed to me extraordinary: how this city, deprived as it is of the commerce which built it up from the shallows of the Adriatic, and upheld it so long and so proudly, should not have decayed even more rapidly than it has done. Trieste has drawn from it almost all its trade, and flourishes by its decline. I walked through the arsenal of Venice, which comprehends the Navy Yard, an enormous structure, with ranges of broad lofty roofs supported by massive portions of wall, and spacious dock-yards; the whole large enough to build and fit out a navy for the British empire. The pleasure-boats of Napoleon and his empress, and that of the present Viceroy, are there: but the ships of war belonging to the republic have mouldered away with the Bucentaur. I saw, however, two Austrian vessels, the same which had conveyed the Polish exiles to New York, lying under shelter in the docks, as if placed there to show who were the present masters of the place. It was melancholy to wander through the vast unoccupied spaces of this noble edifice, and to think what must have been the riches, the power, the prosperity, and the hopes of Venice at the time it was built, and what they are at the present moment. It seems almost impossible that any thing should take place to arrest the ruin which is gradually consuming this renowned city. Some writers have asserted that the lagoons around it are annually growing shallower by the depositions of earth brought down by streams from the land, that they must finally become marshes, and that their consequent insalubrity will drive the inhabitants from Venice. I do not know how this may be; but the other causes I have mentioned seem likely to produce nearly the same effect. I remembered, as these ideas passed through my mind, a passage in which one of the sacred poets foretells the desertion and desolation of Tyre, "the city that made itself glorious in the midst of the seas,"
"Thy riches and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners and thy pilots, thy calkers and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war that are in thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin."
I left this most pleasing of the Italian cities which I had seen, on the 24th of June, and took the road for the Tyrol. We passed through a level fertile country, formerly the territory of Venice, watered by the Piave, which ran blood in one of Bonaparte's battles. At evening we arrived at Ceneda, where our Italian poet Da Ponte was born, situated just at the base of the Alps, the rocky peaks and irregular spires of which, beautifully green with the showery season, rose in the background. Ceneda seems to have something of German cleanliness about it, and the floors of a very comfortable inn at which we stopped were of wood, the first we had seen in Italy, though common throughout the Tyrol and the rest of Germany. A troop of barelegged boys, just broke loose from school, whooping and swinging their books and slates in the air, passed under my window. Such a sight you will not see in southern Italy. The education of the people is neglected, except in those provinces which are under the government of Austria. It is a government severe and despotic enough in all conscience, but by providing the means of education for all classes, it is doing more than it is aware of to prepare them for the enjoyment of free institutions. In the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom, as it is called, there are few children who do not attend the public schools.
On leaving Ceneda, we entered a pass in the mountains, the gorge of which was occupied by the ancient town of Serravalle, resting on arcades, the architecture of which denoted that it was built during the middle ages. Near it I remarked an old castle, which formerly commanded the pass, one of the finest ruins of the kind I had ever seen. It had a considerable extent of battlemented wall in perfect preservation, and both that and its circular tower were so luxuriantly loaded with ivy that they seemed almost to have been cut out of the living verdure. As we proceeded we became aware how worthy this region was to be the birthplace of a poet. A rapid stream, a branch of the Piave, tinged of a light and somewhat turbid blue by the soil of the mountains, came tumbling and roaring down the narrow valley; perpendicular precipices rose on each side; and beyond, the gigantic brotherhood of the Alps, in two long files of steep pointed summits, divided by deep ravines, stretched away in the sunshine to the northeast. In the face of one the precipices by the way-side, a marble slab is fixed, informing the traveller that the road was opened by the late Emperor of Germany in the year 1830. We followed this romantic valley for a considerable distance, passing several little blue lakes lying in their granite basins, one of which is called the Lago morto or Dead Lake, from having no outlet for its waters. At length we began to ascend, by a winding road, the steep sides of the Alps—the prospect enlarging as we went, the mountain summits rising to sight around us, one behind another, some of them white with snow, over which the wind blew with a wintery keenness—deep valleys opening below us, and gulfs yawning between rocks over which old bridges were thrown—and solemn fir forests clothing the broad declivities. The farm-houses placed on these heights, instead of being of brick or stone, as in the plains and valleys below, were principally built of wood; the second story, which served for a barn, being encircled by a long gallery, and covered with a projecting roof of plank held down with large stones. We stopped at Venas, a wretched place with a wretched inn, the hostess of which showed us a chin swollen with the goitre, and ushered us into dirty comfortless rooms where we passed the night. When we awoke the rain was beating against the windows, and, on looking out, the forest and sides of the neighboring mountains, at a little height above us, appeared hoary with snow. We set out in the rain, but had not proceeded far before we heard the sleet striking against the windows of the carriage, and soon came to where the snow covered the ground to the depth of one or two inches. Continuing to ascend, we passed out of Italy and entered the Tyrol. The storm had ceased before we went through the first Tyrolese village, and we could not help being struck with the change in the appearance of the inhabitants—the different costume, the less erect figures, the awkward gait, the lighter complexions, the neatly-kept habitations, and the absence of beggars. As we advanced, the clouds began to roll off from the landscape, disclosing here and there, through openings in their broad skirts as they swept along, glimpses of the profound valleys below us, and of the white sides and summits of mountains in the mid-sky above. At length the sun appeared, and revealed a prospect of such wildness, grandeur, and splendor as I had never before seen. Lofty peaks of the most fantastic shapes, with deep clefts between, sharp needles of rocks, and overhanging crags, infinite in multitude, shot up everywhere around us, glistening in the new-fallen snow, with thin wreaths of mist creeping along their sides. At intervals, swollen torrents, looking at a distance like long trains of foam, came thundering down the mountains, and crossing the road, plunged into the verdant valleys which winded beneath. Beside the highway were fields of young grain, pressed to the ground with the snow; and in the meadows, ranunculuses of the size of roses, large yellow violets, and a thousand other Alpine flowers of the most brilliant hues, were peeping through their white covering. We stopped to breakfast at a place called Landro, a solitary inn, in the midst of this grand scenery, with a little chapel beside it. The water from the dissolving snow was dropping merrily from the roof in a bright June sun. We needed not to be told that we were in Germany, for we saw it plainly enough in the nicely-washed floor of the apartment into which we were shown, in the neat cupboard with the old prayer-book lying upon it, and in the general appearance of housewifery, a quality unknown in Italy; to say nothing of the evidence we had in the beer and tobacco-smoke of the travellers' room, and the guttural dialect and quiet tones of the guests.
From Landro we descended gradually into the beautiful valleys of the Tyrol, leaving the snow behind, though the white peaks of the mountains were continually in sight. At Bruneck, in an inn resplendent with neatness—so at least it seemed to our eyes accustomed to the negligence and dirt of Italian housekeeping—we had the first specimen of a German bed. It is narrow and short, and made so high at the head, by a number of huge square bolsters and pillows, that you rather sit than lie. The principal covering is a bag of down, very properly denominated the upper bed, and between this and the feather-bed below, the traveller is expected to pass the night. An asthmatic patient on a cold winter night might perhaps find such a couch tolerably comfortable, if he could prevent the narrow covering from slipping off on one side or the other. The next day we were afforded an opportunity of observing more closely the inhabitants of this singular region, by a festival, or holiday of some sort, which brought them into the roads in great numbers, arrayed in their best dresses—the men in short jackets and small-clothes, with broad gay-colored suspenders over their waistcoats, and leathern belts ornamented with gold or silver leaf—the women in short petticoats composed of horizontal bands of different colors—and both sexes, for the most part, wearing broad-brimmed hats with hemispherical crowns, though there was a sugar-loaf variety much affected by the men, adorned with a band of lace and sometimes a knot of flowers. They are a robust, healthy-looking race, though they have an awkward stoop in the shoulders. But what struck me most forcibly was the devotional habits of the people. The Tyrolese might be cited as an illustration of the remark, that mountaineers are more habitually and profoundly religious than others. Persons of all sexes, young and old, whom we meet in the road, were repeating their prayers audibly. We passed a troop of old women, all in broad-brimmed hats and short gray petticoats, carrying long staves, one of whom held a bead-roll and gave out the prayers, to which the others made the responses in chorus. They looked at us so solemnly from under their broad brims, and marched along with so grave and deliberate a pace, that I could hardly help fancying that the wicked Austrians had caught a dozen elders of the respectable society of Friends, and put them in petticoats to punish them for their heresy. We afterward saw persons going to the labors of the day, or returning, telling their rosaries and saying their prayers as they went, as if their devotions had been their favorite amusement. At regular intervals of about half a mile, we saw wooden crucifixes erected by the way-side, covered from the weather with little sheds, bearing the image of the Saviour, crowned with thorns and frightfully dashed with streaks and drops of red paint, to represent the blood that flowed from his wounds. The outer walls of the better kind of houses were ornamented with paintings in fresco, and the subjects of these were mostly sacred, such as the Virgin and Child, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension. The number of houses of worship was surprising; I do not mean spacious or stately churches such as we meet with in Italy, but most commonly little chapels dispersed so as best to accommodate the population. Of these the smallest neighborhood has one for the morning devotions of its inhabitants, and even the solitary inn has its little consecrated building with its miniature spire, for the convenience of pious wayfarers. At Sterzing, a little village beautifully situated at the base of the mountain called the Brenner, and containing, as I should judge, not more than two or three thousand inhabitants, we counted seven churches and chapels within the compass of a square mile. The observances of the Roman Catholic church are nowhere more rigidly complied with than in the Tyrol. When we stopped at Bruneck on Friday evening, I happened to drop a word about a little meat for dinner in a conversation with the spruce-looking landlady, who appeared so shocked that I gave up the point, on the promise of some excellent and remarkably well-flavored trout from the stream that flowed through the village—a promise that was literally fulfilled. At the post-house on the Brenner, where we stopped on Saturday evening, we were absolutely refused any thing but soup-maigre and fish; the postmaster telling us that the priest had positively forbidden meat to be given to travellers. Think of that!—that we who had eaten wild-boar and pheasants on Good Friday, at Rome, under the very nostrils of the Pope himself and his whole conclave of Cardinals, should be refused a morsel of flesh on an ordinary Saturday, at a tavern on a lonely mountain in the Tyrol, by the orders of a parish priest! Before getting our soup-maigre, we witnessed another example of Tyrolese devotion. Eight or ten travellers, apparently laboring men, took possession of the entrance hall of the inn, and kneeling, poured forth their orisons in the German language for half an hour with no small appearance of fervency. In the morning when we were ready to set out, we inquired for our coachman, an Italian, and found that he too, although not remarkably religious, had caught something of the spirit of the place, and was at the Gotteshaus, as the waiter called the tavern chapel, offering his morning prayers.
We descended the Brenner on the 28th of June in a snow-storm, the wind whirling the light flakes in the air as it does with us in winter. It changed to rain, however, as we approached the beautiful and picturesque valley watered by the river Inn, on the banks of wrhich stands the fine old town of Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol. Here we visited the Church of the Holy Cross, in which is the bronze tomb of Maximilian I. and twenty or thirty bronze statues ranged on each side of the nave, representing fierce warrior chiefs, and gowned prelates, and stately damsels of the middle ages. These are all curious for the costume; the warriors are cased in various kinds of ancient armor, and brandish various ancient weapons, and the robes of the females are flowing and by no means ungraceful. Almost every one of the statues has its hands and fingers in some constrained and awkward position; as if the artist knew as little what to do with them as some awkward and bashful people know what to do with their own. Such a crowd of figures in that ancient garb, occupying the floor in the midst of the living worshipers of the present day, has an effect which at first is startling. From Innsbruck we climbed and crossed another mountain-ridge, scarcely less wild and majestic in its scenery than those we had left behind. On descending, we observed that the crucifixes had disappeared from the roads, and the broad-brimmed and sugar-loaf hats from the heads of the peasantry; the men wore hats contracted in the middle of the crown like an hour-glass, and the women caps edged with a broad band of black fur, the frescoes on the outside of the houses became less frequent; in short it was apparent that we had entered a different region, even if the custom-house and police officers on the frontier had not signified to us that we were now in the kingdom of Bavaria. We passed through extensive forests of fir, here and there checkered with farms, and finally came to the broad elevated plain bathed by the Isar, in which Munich is situated.
An Excursion to Rock River.
Princeton, Illinois, June 21, 1841.
I have just returned from an excursion to Rock River, one of the most beautiful of our western streams.
We left Princeton on the 17th of the month, and after passing a belt of forest which conceals one of the branches of the Bureau River, found ourselves upon the wide, unfenced prairie, spreading away on every side until it met the horizon. Flocks of turtle-doves rose from our path scared at our approach; quails and rabbits were seen running before us; the prairie-squirrel, a little striped animal of the marmot kind, crossed the road; we started plovers by the dozen, and now and then a prairie-hen, which flew off heavily into the grassy wilderness. With these animals the open country is populous, but they have their pursuers and destroyers; not the settlers of the region, for they do not shoot often except at a deer or a wild turkey, or a noxious animal; but the prairie-hawk, the bald-eagle, the mink, and the prairie-wolf, which make merciless havoc among them and their brood.
About fifteen miles we came to Dad Joe's Grove, in the shadow of which, thirteen years ago, a settler named Joe Smith, who had fought in the battle of the Thames, one of the first white inhabitants of this region, seated himself, and planted his corn, and gathered his crops quietly, through the whole Indian war, without being molested by the savages, though he was careful to lead his wife and family to a place of security. As Smith was a settler of such long standing, he was looked to as a kind of patriarch in the county, and to distinguish him from other Joe Smiths, he received the venerable appellation of Dad. He has since removed to another part of the state, but his well-known, hospitable cabin, inhabited by another inmate, is still there, and his grove of tall trees, standing on a ridge amidst the immense savannahs, yet retains his name. As we descended into the prairie we were struck with the novelty and beauty of the prospect which lay before us. The ground sank gradually and gently into a low but immense basin, in the midst of which lies the marshy tract called the Winnebago Swamp. To the northeast the sight was intercepted by a forest in the midst of the basin, but to the northwest the prairies were seen swelling up again in the smoothest slopes to their usual height, and stretching away to a distance so vast that it seemed boldness in the eye to follow them.
The Winnebagoes and other Indian tribes which formerly possessed this country have left few memorials of their existence, except the names of places. Now and then, as at Indiantown, near Princeton, you are shown the holes in the ground where they stored their maize, and sometimes on the borders of the rivers you see the trunks of trees which they felled, evidently hacked by their tomahawks, but perhaps the most remarkable of their remains are the paths across the prairies or beside the large streams, called Indian trails—narrow and well-beaten ways, sometimes a foot in depth, and many of them doubtless trodden for hundreds of years.
As we went down the ridge upon which stands Dad Joe's Grove, we saw many boulders of rock lying on the surface of the soil of the prairies. The western people, naturally puzzled to tell how they came there, give them the expressive name of "lost rocks." We entered a forest of scattered oaks, and after travelling for half an hour reached the Winnebago Swamp, a tract covered with tall and luxuriant water-grass, which we crossed on a causey built by a settler who keeps a toll-gate, and at the end of the causey we forded a small stream called Winnebago Inlet. Crossing another vast prairie we reached the neighborhood of Dixon, the approach to which was denoted by groves, farm-houses, herds of cattle, and inclosed corn fields, checkering the broad green prairie.
Dixon, named after an ancient settler of the place still living, is a country town situated on a high bank of Rock River. Five years ago two log-cabins only stood on the solitary shore, and now it is a considerable village, with many neat dwellings, a commodious court-house, several places of worship for the good people, and a jail for the rogues, built with a triple wall of massive logs, but I was glad to see that it had no inmate.
Rock River flows through high prairies, and not, like most streams of the West, through an alluvial country. The current is rapid, and the pellucid waters glide over a bottom of sand and pebbles. Its admirers declare that its shores unite the beauties of the Hudson and of the Connecticut. The banks on either side are high and bold; sometimes they are perpendicular precipices, the base of which stands in the running water; sometimes they are steep grassy or rocky bluffs, with a space of dry alluvial land between them and the stream; sometimes they rise by a gradual and easy ascent to the general level of the region, and sometimes this ascent is interrupted by a broad natural terrace. Majestic trees grow solitary or in clumps on the grassy acclivities, or scattered in natural parks along the lower lands upon the river, or in thick groves along the edge of the high country. Back of the bluffs, extends a fine agricultural region, rich prairies with an undulating surface, interspersed with groves. At the foot of the bluffs break forth copious springs of clear water, which hasten in little brooks to the river. In a drive which I took up the left bank of the river, I saw three of these in the space of as many miles. One of these is the spring which supplies the town of Dixon with water; the next is a beautiful fountain rushing out from the rocks in the midst of a clump of trees, as merrily and in as great a hurry as a boy let out of school; the third is so remarkable as to have received a name. It is a little rivulet issuing from a cavern six or seven feet high, and about twenty from the entrance to the further end, at the foot of a perpendicular precipice covered with forest-trees and fringed with bushes.
In the neighborhood of Dixon, a class of emigrants have established themselves, more opulent and more luxurious in their tastes than most of the settlers of the western country. Some of these have built elegant mansions on the left bank of the river, amidst the noble trees which seem to have grown up for that very purpose. Indeed, when I looked at them, I could hardly persuade myself that they had not been planted to overshadow older habitations. From the door of one of these dwellings I surveyed a prospect of exceeding beauty. The windings of the river allowed us a sight of its waters and its beautifully diversified banks to a great distance each way, and in one direction a high prairie region was seen above the woods that fringed the course of this river, of a lighter green than they, and touched with the golden light of the setting sun.
I am told that the character of Rock River is, throughout its course, much as I have described it in the neighborhood of Dixon, that its banks are high and free from marshes, and its waters rapid and clear, from its source in Wisconsin to where it enters the Mississippi amidst rocky islands. What should make its shores unhealthy I can not see, yet they who inhabit them are much subject to intermittent fevers. They tell you very quietly that every body who comes to live there must take a seasoning. I suppose that when this country becomes settled this will no longer be the case. Rock River is not much subject to inundations, nor do its waters become very low in summer. A project is on foot, I am told, to navigate it with steam-vessels of a light draught.
When I arrived at Dixon I was told that the day before a man named Bridge, living at Washington Grove, in Ogle county, came into town and complained that he had received notice from a certain association that he must leave the county before the seventeenth of the month, or that he would be looked upon as a proper subject for Lynch law. He asked for assistance to defend his person and dwelling against the lawless violence of these men. The people of Dixon county came together and passed a resolution to the effect, that they approved fully of what the inhabitants of Ogle county had done, and that they allowed Mr. Bridge the term of four hours to depart from the town of Dixon. He went away immediately, and in great trepidation. This Bridge is a notorious confederate and harborer of horse-thieves and counterfeiters. The thinly-settled portions of Illinois are much exposed to the depredations of horse-thieves, who have a kind of centre of operations in Ogle county, where it is said that they have a justice of the peace and a constable among their own associates, and where they contrive to secure a friend on the jury whenever any one of their number is tried. Trial after trial has taken place, and it has been found impossible to obtain a conviction on the clearest evidence, until last April, when two horse-thieves being on trial eleven of the jury threatened the twelfth with a taste of the cowskin unless he would bring in a verdict of guilty. He did so, and the men were condemned. Before they were removed to the state-prison, the court-house was burnt down and the jail was in flames, but luckily they were extinguished without the liberation of the prisoners. Such at length became the general feeling of insecurity, that three hundred citizens of Ogle county, as I understand, have formed themselves into a company of volunteers for the purpose of clearing the county of these men. Two horse-thieves have been seized and flogged, and Bridge, their patron, has been ordered to remove or abide the consequences.
As we were returning from Dixon on the morning of the 19th, we heard a kind of humming noise in the grass, which one of the company said proceeded from a rattlesnake. We dismounted and found in fact it was made by a prairie-rattlesnake, which lay coiled around a tuft of herbage, and which we soon dispatched. The Indians call this small variety of the rattlesnake, the Massasauger. Horses are frequently bitten by it and come to the doors of their owners with their heads horribly swelled but they are recovered by the application of hartshorn. A little further on, one of the party raised the cry of wolf, and looking we saw a prairie-wolf in the path before us, a prick-eared animal of a reddish-gray color, standing and gazing at us with great composure. As we approached, he trotted off into the grass, with his nose near the ground, not deigning to hasten his pace for our shouts, and shortly afterward we saw two others running in a different direction.
The prairie-wolf is not so formidable an animal as the name of wolf would seem to denote; he is quite as great a coward as robber, but he is exceedingly mischievous. He never takes full-grown sheep unless he goes with a strong troop of his friends, but seizes young lambs, carries off sucking-pigs, robs the henroost, devours sweet corn in the gardens, and plunders the water-melon patch. A herd of prairie-wolves will enter a field of melons and quarrel about the division of the spoils as fiercely and noisily as so many politicians. It is their way to gnaw a hole immediately into the first melon they lay hold of. If it happens to be ripe, the inside is devoured at once, if not, it is dropped and another is sought out, and a quarrel is picked with the discoverer of a ripe one, and loud and shrill is the barking, and fierce the growling and snapping which is heard on these occasions. It is surprising, I am told, with what dexterity a wolf will make the most of a melon; absorbing every remnant of the pulp, and hollowing it out as clean as it could be scraped by a spoon. This is when the allowance of melons is scarce, but when they are abundant he is as careless and wasteful as a government agent.
Enough of natural history. I will finish my letter another day.
Let me caution all emigrants to Illinois not to handle too familiarly the "wild parsnip," as it is commonly called, an umbelliferous plant growing in the moist prairies of this region. I have handled it and have paid dearly for it, having such a swelled face that I could scarcely see for several days.
The regulators of Ogle county removed Bridge's family on Monday last and demolished his house. He made preparations to defend himself, and kept twenty armed men about him for two days, but thinking, at last, that the regulators did not mean to carry their threats into effect, he dismissed them. He has taken refuge with his friends, the Aikin family, who live, I believe, in Jefferson Grove, in the same county, and who, it is said, have also received notice to quit.
Examples of Lynch Law.
Princeton, Illinois, July 2, 1841.
In my last letter I mentioned that the regulators in Ogle county, on Rock River, in this state, had pulled down the house of one Bridge, living at Washington Grove, a well-known confederate of the horse-thieves and coiners with which this region is infested.
Horse-thieves are numerous in this part of the country. A great number of horses are bred here; you see large herds of them feeding in the open prairies, and at this season of the year every full-grown mare has a colt running by her side. Most of the thefts are committed early in the spring, when the grass begins to shoot, and the horses are turned out on the prairie, and the thieves, having had little or no employment during the winter, are needy; or else in the autumn, when the animals are kept near the dwellings of their owners to be fed with Indian corn and are in excellent order. The thieves select the best from the drove, and these are passed from one station to another till they arrive at some distant market where they are sold. It is said that they have their regular lines of communication from Wisconsin to St. Louis, and from the Wabash to the Mississippi. In Ogle county they seem to have been bolder than elsewhere, and more successful, notwithstanding the notoriety of their crimes, in avoiding punishment. The impossibility of punishing them by process of law, the burning of the court-house at Oregon City last April, and the threats of deadly vengeance thrown out by them against such as should attempt to bring them to justice, led to the formation of a company of citizens, "regulators" they call themselves, who resolved to take the law into their own hands and drive the felons from the neighborhood. This is not the first instance of the kind which has happened in Illinois. Some twenty years since the southern counties contained a gang of horse-thieves, so numerous and well-organized as to defy punishment by legal means, and they were expelled by the same method which is now adopted in Ogle county.
I have just learned, since I wrote the last sentence, that the society of regulators includes, not only the county of Ogle, but those of De Kalb and Winnebago, where the depredations of the horse-thieves and the perfect impunity with which they manage to exercise their calling, have exhausted the patience of the inhabitants. In those counties, as well as in Ogle, their patrons live at some of the finest groves, where they own large farms. Ten or twenty stolen horses will be brought to one of these places of a night, and before sunrise the desperadoes employed to take them are again mounted and on their way to some other station. In breaking up these haunts, the regulators, I understand, have proceeded with some of the formalities commonly used in administering justice. The accused party has been allowed to make his defense, and witnesses have been examined, both for and against him.
These proceedings, however, have lately suffered a most tragical interruption. Not long after Bridge's house was pulled down, two men, mounted and carrying rifles, called at the dwelling of a Mr Campbell, living at Whiterock Grove, in Ogle county, who belonged to the company of regulators, and who had acted as the messenger to convey to Bridge the order to leave the county. Meeting Mrs. Campbell without the house, they told her that they wished to speak to her husband. Campbell made his appearance at the door and immediately both the men fired. He fell mortally wounded and lived but a few minutes. "You have killed my husband," said Mrs. Campbell to one of the murderers whose name was Driscoll. Upon this they rode off at full speed.
As soon as the event was known the whole country was roused, and every man who was not an associate of the horse-thieves, shouldered his rifle to go in pursuit of the murderers. They apprehended the father of Driscoll, a man nearly seventy years of age, and one of his sons, William Driscoll, the former a reputed horse-thief, and the latter, a man who had hitherto borne a tolerably fair character, and subjected them to a separate examination. The father was wary in his answers, and put on the appearance of perfect innocence, but William Driscoll was greatly agitated, and confessed that he, with his father and others, had planned the murder of Campbell, and that David Driscoll, his brother, together with another associate, was employed to execute it. The father and son were then sentenced to death; they were bound and made to kneel; about fifty men took aim at each, and, in three hours from the time they were taken, they were dead men. A pit was dug on the spot where they fell, in the midst of a prairie near their dwelling; their corpses, pierced with bullet-holes in every part, were thrown in, and the earth was heaped over them.