OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS
MADE IN THE COURSE OF A
FRANCE, ITALY, AND GERMANY.
By HESTER LYNCH PIOZZI.
IN TWO VOLUMES
Printed for A. STRAHAN; and T. CADELL in the Strand,
I was made to observe at Rome some vestiges of an ancient custom very proper in those days—it was the parading of the streets by a set of people called Preciae, who went some minutes before the Flamen Dialis to bid the inhabitants leave work or play, and attend wholly to the procession; but if ill omens prevented the pageants from passing, or if the occasion of the show was deemed scarcely worthy its celebration, these Preciae stood a chance of being ill-treated by the spectators. A Prefatory introduction to a work like this, can hope little better usage from the Public than they had; it proclaims the approach of what has often passed by before, adorned most certainly with greater splendour, perhaps conducted too with greater regularity and skill: Yet will I not despair of giving at least a momentary amusement to my countrymen in general, while their entertainment shall serve as a vehicle for conveying expressions of particular kindness to those foreign individuals, whose tenderness softened the sorrows of absence, and who eagerly endeavoured by unmerited attentions to supply the loss of their company on whom nature and habit had given me stronger claims.
That I should make some reflections, or write down some observations, in the course of a long journey, is not strange; that I should present them before the Public is I hope not too daring: the presumption grew up out of their acknowledged favour, and if too kind culture has encouraged a coarse plant till it runs to seed, a little coldness from the same quarter will soon prove sufficient to kill it. The flattering partiality of private partisans sometimes induces authors to venture forth, and stand a public decision; but it is often found to betray them too; not to be tossed by waves of perpetual contention, but rather to sink in the silence of total neglect. What wonder! He who swims in oil must be buoyant indeed, if he escapes falling certainly, though gently, to the bottom; while he who commits his safety to the bosom of the wide-embracing ocean, is sure to be strongly supported, or at worst thrown upon the shore.
On this principle it has been still my study to obtain from a humane and generous Public that shelter their protection best affords from the poisoned arrows of private malignity; for though it is not difficult to despise the attempts of petty malice, I will not say with the Philosopher, that I mean to build a monument to my fame with the stones thrown at me to break my bones; nor yet pretend to the art of Swift's German Wonder-doer, who promised to make them fall about his head like so many pillows. Ink, as it resembles Styx in its colour, should resemble it a little in its operation too; whoever has been once dipt should become invulnerable: But it is not so; the irritability of authors has long been enrolled among the comforts of ill-nature, and the triumphs of stupidity; such let it long remain! Let me at least take care in the worst storms that may arise in public or in private life, to say with Lear,
—I'm one More sinn'd against, than sinning.
For the book—I have not thrown my thoughts into the form of private letters; because a work of which truth is the best recommendation, should not above all others begin with a lie. My old acquaintance rather chose to amuse themselves with conjectures, than to flatter me with tender inquiries during my absence; our correspondence then would not have been any amusement to the Public, whose treatment of me deserves every possible acknowledgment; and more than those acknowledgments will I not add—to a work, which, such as it is, I submit to their candour, resolving to think as little of the event as I can help; for the labours of the press resemble those of the toilette, both should be attended to, and finished with care; but once complete, should take up no more of our attention; unless we are disposed at evening to destroy all effect of our morning's study.
OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS
MADE IN A JOURNEY THROUGH
France, Italy, and Germany.
* * * * *
September 7, 1784.
Of all pleasure, I see much may be destroyed by eagerness of anticipation: I had told my female companion, to whom travelling was new, how she would be surprized and astonished, at the difference found in crossing the narrow sea from England to France, and now she is not astonished at all; why should she? We have lingered and loitered six and twenty hours from port to port, while sickness and fatigue made her feel as if much more time still had elapsed since she quitted the opposite shore. The truth is, we wanted wind exceedingly; and the flights of shaggs, and shoals of maycril, both beautiful enough, and both uncommon too at this season, made us very little amends for the tediousness of a night passed on ship-board.
Seeing the sun rise and set, however, upon an unobstructed horizon, was a new idea gained to me, who never till now had the opportunity. It confirmed the truth of that maxim which tells us, that the human mind must have something left to supply for itself on the sight of all sublunary objects. When my eyes have watched the rising or setting sun through a thick crowd of intervening trees, or seen it sink gradually behind a hill which obstructed my closer observation, fancy has always painted the full view finer than at last I found it; and if the sun itself cannot satisfy the cravings of a thirsty imagination, let it at least convince us that nothing on this side Heaven can satisfy them, and set our affections accordingly.
Pious reflections remind one of monks and nuns; I enquired of the Franciscan friar who attended us at the inn, what was become of Father Felix, who did the duties of the quete; as it is called, about a dozen years ago, when I recollect minding that his manners and story struck Dr. Johnson exceedingly, who said that so complete a character could scarcely be found in romance. He had been a soldier, it seems, and was no incompetent or mean scholar: the books we found open in his cell, shewed he had not neglected modern or colloquial knowledge; there was a translation of Addison's Spectators, and Rapin's Dissertation on the contending Parties of England called Whig and Tory. He had likewise a violin, and some printed music, for his entertainment. I was glad to hear he was well, and travelling to Barcelona on foot by orders of the superior.
After dinner we set out to see Miss Grey, at her convent of Dominican Nuns; who, I hoped, would have remembered me, as many of the ladies there had seized much of my attention when last abroad; they had however all forgotten me, nor could call to mind how much they had once admired the beauty of my eldest daughter, then a child, which I thought impossible to forget: one is always more important in one's own eyes than in those of others; but no one is of importance to a Nun, who is and ought to be employed in other speculations.
When the Great Mogul showed his splendour to a travelling dervise, who expressed his little admiration of it—"Shall you not often be thinking of me in future?" said the monarch. "Perhaps I might," replied the religieux, "if I were not always thinking upon God."
The women spinning at their doors here, or making lace, or employing themselves in some manner, is particularly consolatory to a British eye; yet I do not recollect it struck me last time I was over: industry without bustle, and some appearance of gain without fraud, comfort one's heart; while all the profits of commerce scarcely can be said to make immediate compensation to a delicate mind, for the noise and brutality observed in an English port. I looked again for the chapel, where the model of a ship, elegantly constructed, hung from the top, and found it in good preservation: some scrupulous man had made the ship, it seems, and thought, perhaps justly too, that he had spent a greater portion of time and care on the workmanship than he ought to have done; so resolving no longer to indulge his vanity or fondness, fairly hung it up in the convent chapel, and made a solemn vow to look on it no more. I remember a much stronger instance of self-denial practised by a pretty young lady of Paris once, who was enjoined by her confessor to wring off the neck of her favourite bullfinch, as a penance for having passed too much time in teaching him to pipe tunes, peck from her hand, &c.—She obeyed; but never could be prevailed on to see the priest again.
We are going now to leave Calais, where the women in long white camblet clokes, soldiers with whiskers, girls in neat slippers, and short petticoats contrived to show them, who wait upon you at the inn;—postillions with greasy night-caps, and vast jack-boots, driving your carriage harnessed with ropes, and adorned with sheep-skins, can never fail to strike an Englishman at his first going abroad:—But what is our difference of manners, compared to that prodigious effect produced by the much shorter passage from Spain to Africa; where an hour's time, and sixteen miles space only, carries you from Europe, from civilization, from Christianity. A gentleman's description of his feelings on that occasion rushes now on my mind, and makes me half ashamed to sit here, in Dessein's parlour, writing remarks, in good time!—upon places as well known as Westminster-bridge to almost all those who cross it at this moment; while the custom-house officers intrusion puts me the less out of humour, from the consciousness that, if I am disturbed, I am disturbed from doing nothing.
Our way to this place lay through Boulogne; the situation of which is pleasing, and the fish there excellent. I was glad to see Boulogne, though I can scarcely tell why; but one is always glad to see something new, and talk of something old: for example, the story I once heard of Miss Ashe, speaking of poor Dr. James, who loved profligate conversation dearly,—"That man should set up his quarters across the water," said she; "why Boulogne would be a seraglio to him."
The country, as far as Montreuil, is a coarse one; thin herbage in the plains and fruitless fields. The cattle too are miserably poor and lean; but where there is no grass, we can scarcely expect them to be fat: they must not feed on wheat, I suppose, and cannot digest tobacco. Herds of swine, not flocks of sheep, meet one's eye upon the hills; and the very few gentlemen's feats that we have passed by, seem out of repair, and deserted. The French do not reside much in private houses, as the English do; but while those of narrower fortunes flock to the country towns within their reach, those of ampler purses repair to Paris, where the rent of their estate supplies them with pleasures at no very enormous expence. The road is magnificent, like our old-fashioned avenue in a nobleman's park, but wider, and paved in the middle: this convenience continued on for many hundred miles, and all at the king's expence. Every man you meet, politely pulls off his hat en passant; and the gentlemen have commonly a good horse under them, but certainly a dressed one.
Sporting season is not come in yet, but, I believe the idea of sporting seldom enters any head except an English one: here is prodigious plenty of game, but the familiarity with which they walk about and sit by our road-side, shews they feel no apprehensions.
Harvest, even in France, is extremely backward this year, I see; no crops are yet got in, nor will reaping be likely to pay its own charges. But though summer is come too late for profit, the pleasure it brings is perhaps enhanced by delay: like a life, the early part of which has been wasted in sickness, the possessor finds too little time remaining for work, when health does come; and spends all that he has left, naturally enough, in enjoyment.
The pert vivacity of La Fille at Montreuil was all we could find there worth remarking: it filled up my notions of French flippancy agreeably enough; as no English wench would so have answered one to be sure. She had complained of our avant-coureur's behaviour. "Il parle sur le bant ton, mademoiselle" (said I), "mais il a le coeur bon[A]:" "Ouyda" (replied she, smartly), "mais c'est le ton qui fait le chanson[B]."
[Footnote A: He sets his talk to a sounding tune, my dear, but he is an honest fellow.]
[Footnote B: But I always thought it was the tune which made the musick.]
The cathedral at Amiens made ample amends for the country we passed through to see it; the Nef d'Amiens deserves the fame of a first-rate structure: and the ornaments of its high altar seem particularly well chosen, of an excellent taste, and very capital execution. The vineyards from thence hither shew, that either the climate, or season, or both, improve upon one: the grapes climbing up some not very tall golden-pippin trees, and mingling their fruits at the top, have a mighty pleasing effect; and I observe the rage for Lombardy poplars is in equal force here as about London: no tolerable house have I passed without seeing long rows of them; all young plantations, as one may perceive by their size. Refined countries always are panting for speedy enjoyment: the maxim of carpe diem[Footnote: Seize the present moment.] came into Rome when luxury triumphed there; and poets and philosophers lent their assistance to decorate and dignify her gaudy car. Till then we read of no such haste to be happy; and on the same principle, while Americans contentedly wait the slow growth of their columnal chesnut, our hot-bed inhabitants measure the slender poplar with canes, anxiously admiring its quick growth and early elegance; yet are often cut down themselves, before their youthful favourite can afford them either pleasure or advantage.
This charming palace and gardens were new to neither of us, yet lovely to both: the tame fish, I remember so well to have fed from my hand eleven or twelve years ago, are turned almost all white; can it be with age I wonder? the naturalists must tell. I once saw a carp which weighed six pounds and an half taken out of a pond in Hertfordshire, where the owners knew it had resided forty years at least; and it was not white, but of the common colour: Quere, how long will they live? and when will they begin to change? The stables struck me as more magnificent this time than the last I saw them; the hounds were always dirtily and ill kept; but hunting is not the taste of any nation now but ours; none but a young English heir says to his estate as Goliah did to David, Come to me, and I will give thee to the beasts of the field, and to the fowls of the air; as some of our old books of piety reproach us. Every trick that money can play with the most lavish abundance of water is here exhibited; nor is the sight of a jet d'eau, or the murmur of an artificial cascade, undelightful in a hot day, let the Nature-mongers say what they please. The prince's cabinet, for a private collection, is not a mean one; but I was sorry to see his quadrant rusted to the globe almost, and the poor planetarium out of all repair. The great stuffed dog is a curiosity however; I never saw any of the canine species so large, and withal so beautiful, living or dead.
The theatre belonging to the house is a lovely one; and the truly princely possessor, when he heard once that an English gentleman, travelling for amusement, had called at Chantilly too late to enjoy the diversion, instantly, though past twelve o'clock at night, ordered a new representation, that his curiosity might be gratified. This is the same Prince of Conde, who going from Paris to his country-seat here for a month or two, when his eldest son was nine years old, left him fifty louis d'ors as an allowance during his absence. At his return to town, the boy produced his purse, crying "Papa! here's all the money safe, I have never touched it once"—The Prince, in reply, took him gravely to the window, and opening it, very quietly poured all the louis d'ors into the street; saying, "Now, if you have neither virtue enough to give away your money, nor spirit enough to spend it, always do this for the future, do you hear; that the poor may at least have a chance for it."
The fine paved road to this town has many inconveniencies, and jars the nerves terribly with its perpetual rattle; the approach however always strikes one as very fine, I think, and the boulevards and guingettes look always pretty too: as wine, beer, and spirits are not permitted to be sold there, one sees what England does not even pretend to exhibit, which is gaiety without noise, and a crowd without a riot. I was pleased to go over the churches again too, and re-experience that particular sensation which the disposition of St. Rocque's altars and ornaments alone can give. In the evening we looked at the new square called the Palais Royal, whence the Due de Chartres has removed a vast number of noble trees, which it was a sin and shame to profane with an axe, after they had adorned that spot for so many centuries.—The people were accordingly as angry, I believe, as Frenchmen can be, when the folly was first committed: the court, however, had wit enough to convert the place into a sort of Vauxhall, with tents, fountains, shops, full of frippery, brilliant at once and worthless, to attract them; with coffeehouses surrounding it on every side; and now they are all again merry and happy, synonymous terms at Paris, though often disunited in London; and Vive le Duc de Chartres!
The French are really a contented race of mortals;—precluded almost from possibility of adventure, the low Parisian leads a gentle humble life, nor envies that greatness he never can obtain; but either wonders delightedly, or diverts himself philosophically with the sight of splendours which seldom fail to excite serious envy in an Englishman, and sometimes occasion even suicide, from disappointed hopes, which never could take root in the heart of these unaspiring people. Reflections of this cast are suggested to one here in every shop, where the behaviour of the matter at first sight contradicts all that our satirists tell us of the supple Gaul, &c. A mercer in this town shews you a few silks, and those he scarcely opens; vous devez choisir[Footnote: Chuse what you like.], is all he thinks of saying, to invite your custom; then takes out his snuff-box, and yawns in your face, fatigued by your inquiries. For my own part, I find my natural disgust of such behaviour greatly repelled, by the recollection that the man I am speaking to is no inhabitant of
A happy land, where circulating pow'r Flows thro' each member of th'embodied state—
and I feel well-inclined to respect the peaceful tenor of a life, which likes not to be broken in upon, for the sake of obtaining riches, which when gotten must end only in the pleasure of counting them. A Frenchman who should make his fortune by trade tomorrow, would be no nearer advancement in society or situation: why then should he solicit, by arts he is too lazy to delight in the practice of, that opulence which would afford so slight an improvement to his comforts? He lives as well as he wishes already; he goes to the Boulevards every night, treats his wife with a glass of lemonade or ice, and holds up his babies by turns, to hear the jokes of Jean Pottage. Were he to recommend his goods, like the Londoner, with studied eloquence and attentive flattery, he could not hope like him that the eloquence he now bestows on the decorations of a hat, or the varnish of an equipage, may one day serve to torment a minister, and obtain a post of honour for his son; he could not hope that on some future day his flattery might be listened to by some lady of more birth than beauty, or riches perhaps, when happily employed upon a very different subject, and be the means of lifting himself into a state of distinction, his children too into public notoriety.
Emulation, ambition, avarice, however, must in all arbitrary governments be confined to the great; the other set of mortals, for there are none there of middling rank, live, as it should seem, like eunuchs in a seraglio; feel themselves irrevocably doomed to promote the pleasure of their superiors, nor ever dream of sighing for enjoyments from which an irremeable boundary divides them. They see at the beginning of their lives how that life must necessarily end, and trot with a quiet, contented, and unaltered pace down their long, straight, and shaded avenue; while we, with anxious solicitude, and restless hurry, watch the quick turnings of our serpentine walk; which still presents, either to sight or expectation, some changes of variety in the ever-shifting prospect, till the unthought-of, unexpected end comes suddenly upon us, and finishes at once the fluctuating scene. Reflections must now give way to facts for a moment, though few English people want to be told that every hotel here, belonging to people of condition, is shut out from the street like our Burlington-house, which gives a general gloom to the look of this city so famed for its gaiety: the streets are narrow too, and ill-paved; and very noisy, from the echo made by stone buildings drawn up to a prodigious height, many of the houses having seven, and some of them even eight stories from the bottom. The contradictions one meets with every moment likewise strike even a cursory observer—a countess in a morning, her hair dressed, with diamonds too perhaps, a dirty black handkerchief about her neck, and a flat silver ring on her finger, like our ale-wives; a femme publique, dressed avowedly for the purposes of alluring the men, with not a very small crucifix hanging at her bosom;—and the Virgin Mary's sign at an alehouse door, with these words,
Je suis la mere de mon Dieu, Et la gardienne de ce lieu[C].
[Footnote C: The mother of my God am I, And keep this house right carefully. ]
I have, however, borrowed Bocage's Remarks upon the English nation, which serve to damp my spirit of criticism exceedingly: She had more opportunities than I for observation, not less quickness of discernment surely; and her stay in London was longer than mine in Paris.—Yet, how was she deceived in many points!
I will tell nothing that I did not see; and among the objects one would certainly avoid seeing if it were possible, is the deformity of the poor.—Such various modes of warping the human figure could hardly be observed in England by a surgeon in high practice, as meet me about this country incessantly.—I have seen them in the galleries and outer-courts even of the palace itself, and am glad to turn my eyes for relief on the Duke of Orleans's pictures; a glorious collection! The Italian noblemen, in whose company we saw it, acknowledged with candour the good taste of the selection; and I was glad to see again what had delighted me so many years before: particularly, the three Marys, by Annibale Caracci; and Rubens's odd conceit of making Juno's Peacock peck Paris's leg, for having refused the apple to his mistress.
The manufacture at the Gobelins seems exceedingly improved; the colouring less inharmonious, the drawing more correct; but our Parisians are not just now thinking about such matters; they are all wild for love of a new comedy, written by Mons. de Beaumarchais, and called, "Le Mariage de Figaro," full of such wit as we were fond of in the reign of Charles the Second, indecent merriment, and gross immorality; mixed, however, with much acrimonious satire, as if Sir George Etherege and Johnny Gay had clubbed their powers of ingenuity at once to divert and to corrupt their auditors; who now carry the verses of this favourite piece upon their fans, pocket-handkerchiefs, &c. as our women once did those of the Beggar's Opera.
We have enjoyed some very agreeable society here in the company of Comte Turconi, a Milanese Nobleman who, desirous to escape all the frivolous, and petty distinction which birth alone bestows, has long fixed his residence in Paris, where talents find their influence, and where a great city affords that unobserved freedom of thought and action which can scarcely be expected by a man of high rank in a smaller circle; but which, when once tasted, will not seldom be preferred to the attentive watchfulness of more confined society.
The famous Venetian too, who has written so many successful comedies, and is now employed upon his own Memoirs, at the age of eighty-four, was a delightful addition to our Coterie, Goldoni. He is garrulous, good-humoured, and gay; resembling the late James Harris of Salisbury in person not manner, and seems justly esteemed, and highly, by his countrymen.
The conversation of the Marquis Trotti and the Abate Bucchetti is likewise particularly pleasing; especially to me, who am naturally desirous to live as much as possible among Italians of general knowledge, good taste, and polished manners, before I enter their country, where the language will be so very indispensable. Mean time I have stolen a day to visit my old acquaintance the English Austin Nuns at the Fossee, and found the whole community alive and cheerful; they are many of them agreeable women, and having seen Dr. Johnson with me when I was last abroad, enquired much for him: Mrs. Fermor, the Prioress, niece to Belinda in the Rape of the Lock, taking occasion to tell me, comically enough, "That she believed there was but little comfort to be found in a house that harboured poets; for that she remembered Mr. Pope's praise made her aunt very troublesome and conceited, while his numberless caprices would have employed ten servants to wait on him; and he gave one" (said she) "no amends by his talk neither, for he only sate dozing all day, when the sweet wine was out, and made his verses chiefly in the night; during which season he kept himself awake by drinking coffee, which it was one of the maids business to make for him, and they took it by turns."
These ladies really live here as comfortably for aught I see as peace, quietness, and the certainty of a good dinner every day can make them. Just so much happier than as many old maids who inhabit Milman Street and Chapel Row, as they are sure not to be robbed by a treacherous, or insulted by a favoured, servant in the decline of life, when protection is grown hopeless and resistance vain; and as they enjoy at least a moral certainty of never living worse than they do to-day: while the little knot of unmarried females turned fifty round Red Lion Square may always be ruined by a runaway agent, a bankrupted banker, or a roguish steward; and even the petty pleasures of six-penny quadrille may become by that misfortune too costly for their income.—Aureste, as the French say, the difference is small: both coteries sit separate in the morning, go to prayers at noon, and read the chapters for the day: change their neat dress, eat their little dinner, and play at small games for small sums in the evening; when recollection tires, and chat runs low.
But more adventurous characters claim my present attention. All Paris I think, myself among the rest, assembled to see the valiant brothers, Robert and Charles, mount yesterday into the air, in company with a certain Pilatre de Rosier, who conducted them in the new-invented flying chariot fastened to an air-balloon. It was from the middle of the Tuilleries that they set out, a place very favourable and well-contrived for such public purposes. But all was so nicely managed, so cleverly carried on somehow, that the order and decorum of us who remained on firm ground, struck me more than even the very strange sight of human creatures floating in the wind: but I have really been witness to ten times as much bustle and confusion at a crowded theatre in London, than what these peaceable Parisians made when the whole city was gathered together. Nobody was hurt, nobody was frighted, nobody could even pretend to feel themselves incommoded. Such are among the few comforts that result from a despotic government.
My republican spirit, however, boiled up a little last Monday, when I had to petition Mons. de Calonne for the restoration of some trifles detained in the custom-house at Calais. His politeness, indeed, and the sight of others performing like acts of humiliation, reconciled me in some measure to the drudgery of running from subaltern to subaltern, intreating, in pathetic terms, the remission of a law which is at last either just or unjust; if just, no felicitation should, methinks, be permitted to change it; if unjust, what can be so grating as the obligation to solicit?
We mean to quit Paris to-morrow; I therefore enquired this evening, what was become of our aerial travellers. A very grave man replied, "Je crois, Madame, qu'ils sont deja arrives ces Messieurs la, au lieu ou les vents se forment[D]."
[Footnote D: I fancy, Ma'am, the gentlemen are gone to see the place where all the winds blow from.]
Sept. 25, 1784.
We left the capital at our intended time, and put into the carriage, for amusement, a book seriously recommended by Mr. Goldoni; but which diverted me only by the fanfaronades that it contained. The author has, however, got the premium by this performance, which the Academy of Berlin promised to whoever wrote best this year on any Belles Lettres subject. This gentleman judiciously chose to give reasons for the universality of the French language, and has been so gaily insolent to every other European nation in his flimsy pamphlet, that some will probably praise, many reply to, all read, and all forget it. I will confess myself so seized on by his sprightly impertinence, that I wished for leisure to translate, and wit to answer him at first, but the want of one solid thought by which to recollect his existence has cured me; and I now find that he was deliciously cool and sharp, like the ordinary wine of the country we are passing through, which having no body, can neither keep its little power long, nor even use it while fresh to any sensible effect.
The country is really beautiful; but descriptions are so fallacious, one half despairs of communicating one's ideas as they are: for either well-chosen words do not present themselves, or being well-chosen they detain the reader, and fix his mind on them, instead of the things described. Certain it is that I had formed no adequate notion of the fine river called the Yonne, with cattle grazing on its fertile banks: those banks not clothed indeed with our soft verdure, but with royal purple, proceeding from an autumnal daisy of that colour that enamels every meadow at this season. Here small enclosures seem unknown to the inhabitants, who are strewed up and down expansive views of a most productive country; where vineyards swell upon the rising grounds, and young wheat ornaments the valleys below: while clusters of aspiring poplars, or a single walnut-tree of greater size and dignity unite in attracting attention, and inspiring poetical ideas. Here is no tedious uniformity to fatigue the eye, nor rugged asperities to disgust it; but ceaseless variety of colouring among the plants, while the caerulean willow, the yellow walnut, the gloomy beech, and silver theophrastus, seem scattered by the open hand of lavish Nature over a landscape of respectable extent, uniting that sublimity which a wide expanse always conveys to the mind, with that distinctness so desired by the eye; which cultivation alone can offer and fertility bestow. Every town that should adorn these lovely plains, however, exhibits, upon a nearer approach, misery; the more mortifying, as it is less expected by a spectator, who requires at least some days experience to convince him that the squallid scenes of wretchedness and dirt in which he is obliged to pass the night, will prove more than equivalent to the pleasures he has enjoyed in the day-time, derived from an appearance of elegance and wealth—elegance, the work of Nature, not of man; and opulence, the immediate gift of God, and not the result of commerce. He who should fix his residence in France, lives like Sir Gawaine in our old romance, whose wife was bound by an enchantment, that obliged her at evening to lay down the various beauties which had charmed admiring multitudes all day, and become an object of odium and disgust.
The French do seem indeed an idle race; and poverty, perhaps for that reason, forces her way among them, through a climate that might tempt other mortals to improve its blessings; but, as the motto to the arms they are so proud of expresses it—"they toil not, neither do they spin." Content, the bane of industry, as Mandeville calls it, renders them happy with what Heaven has unsolicited shaken into their lap; and who knows but the spirit of blaming such behaviour may be less pleasing to God that gives, than is the behaviour itself?
Let us not, mean time, be forward to suppose, that whatever one sees done, is done upon principle, as such fancies will for ever mislead one: much must be left to chance, when we are judging the conduct either of nations or individuals. And surely I never knew till now, that so little religion could exist in any Christian country as in this, where they drive their carts, and keep their little shops open on a Sunday, forbearing neither pleasure nor business, as I see, on account of observing that day upon which their Redeemer rose again. They have a tradition among the meaner people, that when Christ was crucified, he turned his head towards France, over which he pronounced his last blessing; but we must accuse them, if so, of being very ungrateful favourites.
This stately city, Lyons, is very happily and finely situated; the Rhone, which flows by its side, inviting mills, manufactures, &c. seems resolved to contradict and wash away all I have been saying; but we must remember, it is five days journey from Paris hither, and I have been speaking only of the little places we passed through in coming along.
The avenue here, which leads to one of the greatest objects in the nation, is most worthy of that object's dignity indeed: the marriage of two rivers, which having their sources at a prodigious distance from each other, meet here, and together roll their beneficial tribute to the sea. Howell's remark, "That the Saone resembles a Spaniard in the slowness of its current, and that the Rhone is emblematic of French rapidity," cannot be kept a moment out of one's head: it is equally observable, that the junction adds little in appearance to their strength and grandeur, and that each makes a better figure separate than united.
La Montagne d'Or is a lovely hill above the town, and I am told that many English families reside upon it, but we have no time to make minute enquiries. L'Hotel de la Croix de Malthe affords excellent accommodations within, and a delightful prospect without. The Baths too have attracted my notice much, and will, I hope, repair my strength, so as to make me no troublesome fellow-traveller. How little do those ladies consult their own interest, who make impatience of petty inconveniences their best supplement for conversation!—fancy themselves more important as less contented; and imagine all delicacy to consist in the difficulty of being pleased! Surely a dip in this delightful river will restore my health, and enable me to pass the mountains, of which our present companions give me a very formidable account.
The manufacturers here, at Lyons, deserve a volume, and I shall scarcely give them a page; though nothing I ever saw at London or Paris can compare with the beauty of these velvets, or with the art necessary to produce such an effect, while the wrong side is smooth, not struck through. The hangings for the Empress of Russia's bed-chamber are wonderfully executed; the design elegant, the colouring brilliant: A screen too for the Grand Signor is finely finished here; he would, I trust, have been contented with magnificence in the choice of his furniture, but Mr. Pernon has added taste to it, and contrived in appearance to sink an urn or vase of crimson velvet in a back ground of gold tissue with surprising ingenuity.
It is observable, that the further people advance in elegance, the less they value splendour; distinction being at last the positive thing which mortals elevated above competency naturally pant after. Necessity must first be supplied we know, convenience then requires to be contented; but as soon as men can find means after that period to make themselves eminent for taste, they learn to despise those paltry distinctions which riches alone can bestow.
Talking of Taste leads one to speak of gardening; and having passed yesterday between two villas belonging to some of the most opulent merchants of Lyons, I gained an opportunity of observing the disposal of those grounds that are appropriated to pleasure; where the shade of straight long-drawn alleys, formed by a close junction of ancient elm trees, kept a dazzling sun from incommoding our sight, and rendering the turf so mossy and comfortable to one's tread, that my heart never felt one longing wish for the beauties of a lawn and shrubbery—though I should certainly think such a manner of laying out a Lancashire gentleman's seat in the north of England a mad one, where the heat of the sun ought to be invited in, not shut out; and where a large lake of water is wanted for his beams to sparkle upon, instead of a fountain to trickle and to murmur, and to refresh one with the idea of coolness which it excites. Here, however, where the Rhone is navigable up to the very house, I see not but it is rational enough to form jet d'eaux of the superfluous water, and to content one's self with a Bird Cage Walk, when we are sure at the end of it to find ourselves surrounded by an horizon, of extent enough to give the eye full employment, and of a bright colouring which affords it but little relief. That among the gems of Europe our island holds the rank of an emerald, was once suggested to me, and I could never part with the idea; surely France must in the same scale be rated as the ruby; for here is no grass, no verdure to repose the sight upon, except that of high forest trees, the vineyards being short cut, and supported by white sticks, the size of those which in our flower gardens support a favourite carnation; and these placed close together by thousands on a hill rather perplex than please a spectator of the country, who must wait till he recollects the superiority of their produce, before he prefers them to a Herefordshire orchard or a Kentish hop-ground.
Well! well! it is better to waste no more words on places however, where the people have done so much to engage and to deserve our attention.
Such was the hospitality I have here been witness to, and such the luxuries of the Lyonnois at table, that I counted six and thirty dishes where we dined, and twenty-four where we supped. Every thing was served up in silver at both places, and all was uniformly magnificent, except the linen, which might have been finer. We were not a very numerous company—from eighteen to twenty-two, as I remember, morning and evening; but the ladies played upon the pedal harp, the gentlemen sung gaily, if not sweetly after supper: I never received more kindness for my own part in any fortnight of my life, nor ever heard that kindness more pleasingly or less coarsely expressed. These are merchants, I am told, with whom I have been living; and perhaps my heart more readily receives and repays their caresses for having heard so. Let princes dispute, and soldiers reciprocally support their quarrels; but let the wealthy traders of every nation unite to pour the oil of commerce over the too agitated ocean of human life, and smooth down those asperities which obstruct fraternal concord.
The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland lodge here at our hotel; I saw them treated with distinguished respect to-night at the theatre, where a force de danser[Footnote: By dint of dancing alone], I actually was moved to shed many tears over the distresses of Sophie de Brabant. Surely these pantomimes will very soon supplant all poetry, when, as Gratiano says, "Our words will suddenly become superfluous, and discourse grow commendable in none but parrots."
Some conversation here, however, struck me as curious; the more so as I had heard the subject slightly touched upon at Paris; but faintly there, as the last sounds of an echo, while here they are all loud, all in earnest, and all their heads seemed turned, I think, about something, or nothing, which they call animal magnetism. I cannot imagine how it has seized them so: a man who undertakes to cure disorders by the touch, is no new thing; our Philosophical Transactions make mention of Gretrex the stroaker, in Charles the Second's reign. The present mountebank, it is true, seems more hardy in his experiments, and boasts of being able to cause disorders in the human frame, as well as to remove them. A gentleman at yesterday's dinner-party mentioned, that he took pupils; and, before I had expressed the astonishment I felt, professed himself a disciple; and was happy to assure us, he said, that though he had not yet attained the desirable power of putting a person into a catalepsy at pleasure, he could throw a woman into a deep swoon, from which no arts but his own could recover her. How difficult is it to restrain one's contempt and indignation from a buffoonery so mean, or a practice so diabolical!—This folly may possibly find its way into England—I should be very sorry.
To-morrow we leave Lyons. I should have liked to pass through Switzerland, the Derbyshire of Europe; but I am told the season is too far advanced, as we mean to spend Christmas at Milan.
October 17, 1784.
We have at length passed the Alps, and are safely arrived at this lovely little city, whence I look back on the majestic boundaries of Italy, with amazement at his courage who first profaned them: surely the immediate sensation conveyed to the mind by the sight of such tremendous appearances must be in every traveller the same, a sensation of fulness never experienced before, a satisfaction that there is something great to be seen on earth—some object capable of contenting even fancy. Who he was who first of all people pervaded these fortifications, raised by nature for the defence of her European Paradise, is not ascertained; but the great Duke of Savoy has wisely left his name engraved on a monument upon the first considerable ascent from Pont Bonvoisin, as being author of a beautiful road cut through the solid stone for a great length of way, and having by this means encouraged others to assist in facilitating a passage so truly desirable, till one of the great wonders now to be observed among the Alps, is the ease with which even a delicate traveller may cross them. In these prospects, colouring is carried to its utmost point of perfection, particularly at the time I found it, variegated with golden touches of autumnal tints; immense cascades mean time bursting from naked mountains on the one side; cultivated fields, rich with vineyards, on the other, and tufted with elegant shrubs that invite one to pluck and carry them away to where they would be treated with much more respect. Little towns flicking in the clefts, where one would imagine it was impossible to clamber; light clouds often sailing under the feet of the high-perched inhabitants, while the sound of a deep and rapid though narrow river, dashing with violence among the insolently impeding rocks at the bottom, and bells in thickly-scattered spires calling the quiet Savoyards to church upon the steep sides of every hill—fill one's mind with such mutable, such various ideas, as no other place can ever possibly afford.
I had the satisfaction of seeing a chamois at a distance, and spoke with a fellow who had killed five hungry bears that made depredation on his pastures: we looked on him with reverence as a monster-tamer of antiquity, Hercules or Cadmus; he had the skin of a beast wrapt round his middle, which confirmed the fancy—but our servants, who borrowed from no fictitious records the few ideas that adorned their talk, told us he reminded them of John the Baptist. I had scarce recovered the shock of this too sublime comparison, when we approached his cottage, and found the felons nailed against the wall, like foxes heads or spread kites in England. Here are many goats, but neither white nor large, like those which browze upon the steeps of Snowdon, or clamber among the cliffs of Plinlimmon.
I chatted with a peasant in the Haute Morienne, concerning the endemial swelling of the throat, which is found in seven out of every ten persons here: he told me what I had always heard, but do not yet believe, that it was produced by drinking the snow water. Certain it is, these places are not wholesome to live in; most of the inhabitants are troubled with weak and sore eyes: and I recollect Sir Richard Jebb telling me, more than seven years ago, that when he passed through Savoy, the various applications made to him, either for the cure or prevention of blindness by numberless unfortunate wretches that crowded round him, hastened his quitting a province where such horrible complaints prevailed. One has heard it related that the goistre or gozzo of the throat is reckoned a beauty by those who possess it; but I spoke with many, and all agreed to lament it as a misfortune. That it does really proceed merely from living in a snowy country, would be well confirmed by accounts of a similar sickness being endemial in Canada; but of an American goistre I have never yet heard—and Wales, methinks, is snowy enough, and mountainous enough, God knows; yet were such an excrescence to be seen there, the people would never have done wondering, and blessing themselves.
The mines of Derbyshire, however, do not very unfrequently exhibit something of the same appearance among those who work in them; and as Savoy is impregnated with many minerals, I should be apter to attribute this extension of the gland to their influence over the constitution, than to that of snow water, which can scarcely be efficacious in a degree of power equal to the producing so very violent an effect.
The wolves do certainly come down from these mountains in large troops, just as Thomson describes them:
Burning for blood; boney, and gaunt, and grim.—
But it is now the fashionable philosophy every where to consider this creature as the original of our domestic friend, the dog. It was a long time before my heart assented to its truth, yet surely their hunting thus in packs confirms it; and the Jackall's willingness to connect with either race, shews one that the species cannot be far removed, and that he makes the shade between the wolf and rough haired shepherd's cur.
Of the longevity of man this district affords us no pleasing examples. The peasants here are apparently unhealthy, and they say—short-lived. We are told by travellers of former days, that there is a region of the air so subtle as to extinguish the two powers of taste and smell; and those who have crossed the Cordilleras of the Andes say, that situations have been explored among their points in South America, where those senses have been found to suffer a temporary suspension. Our voyageurs aeriens[Footnote: Our aerostatic travellers] may now be useful to settle that question among others, and Pambamarca's heights may remain untrodden.
As for Mount Cenis, I never felt myself more hungry, or better enjoyed a good dinner, than I did upon it's top: but the trout in the lake there have been over praised; their pale colour allured me but little in the first place, nor is their flavour equal to that of trout found in running water. Going down the Italian side of the Alps is, after all, an astonishing journey; and affords the most magnificent scenery in nature, which varying at every step, gives new impression to the mind each moment of one's passage; while the portion of terror excited either by real or fancied dangers on the way, is just sufficient to mingle with the pleasure, and make one feel the full effect of sublimity. To the chairmen who carry one though, nothing can be new; it is observable that the glories of these objects have never faded—I heard them speak to each other of their beauties, and the change of light since they had passed by last time, while a fellow who spoke English as well as a native told us, that having lived in a gentleman's service twenty years between London and Dublin, he at length begged his discharge, chusing to retire and finish his days a peasant upon these mountains, where he first opened his eyes upon scenes that made all other views of nature insipid to his taste.
If impressions of beauty remain, however, those of danger die away by frequent reiteration; the men who carried me seemed amazed that I should feel any emotions of fear. Qu'est ce donc, madame?[Footnote: What's the matter, my lady?] was the coldly-asked question to my repeated injunction of prenez garde[Footnote: Take care.]: not very apparently unnecessary neither, where the least slip must have been fatal both to them and me.
Novalesa is the town we stopped at, upon entering Piedmont; where the hollow sound of a heavy dashing torrent that has accompanied us hitherto, first grows faint, and the ideas of common life catch hold of one again; as the noise of it is heard from a greater distance, its stream grows wider, and its course more tranquil. For compensation of danger, ease should be administered; but one's quiet is here so disturbed by insects, and polluted by dirt, that one recollects the conduct of the Lapland rein-deer, who seeks the summit of the hill at the hazard of his life, to avoid those gnats which sting him to madness in the valley.
Suza shewed nothing that I took much interest in, except its name; and nobody tells me why it is honoured with that old Asiatick appellation. At the next town, called St. Andre, or St. Ambroise, I forget which, we got an admirable dinner; and saw our room decorated with a large map of London, which I looked on with sensations different from those ever before excited by the same object, Amsterdam and Constantinople covered the other sides of the wall; and over the door of the chamber itself was written, as our people write the Lamb or the Lion, "Les trois Villes Heretiques[Footnote: The three Heretical Cities]."
The avenue to Turin, most magnificently planted, and drawn in a wide straight line, shaded like the Bird-cage walk in St. James's Park, for twelve miles in length, is a dull work, but very useful and convenient in so hot a country; it has been completed by the taste, and at the sole expence, of his Sardinian majesty, that he may enjoy a cool shady drive from one of his palaces to the other. The town to which this long approach conveys one does not disgrace its entrance. It is built in form of a star, with a large stone in its centre, on which you are desired to stand, and see the streets all branch regularly from it, each street terminating with a beautiful view of the surrounding country, like spots of ground seen in many of the old-fashioned parks in England, when the etoile and vista were the mode. I think there is still one subsisting even now, if I remember right, in Kensington Gardens. Such symmetry is really a soft repose for the eye, wearied with following a soaring falcon through the half-sightless regions of the air, or darting down immeasurable precipices, to examine if the human figure could be discerned at such a depth below one. Model of elegance, exact Turin! where Italian hospitality first consoled, and Italian arts first repaid, the fatigues of my journey: how shall I bear to leave my new-obtained acquaintance? how shall I consent to quit this lovely city? where, from the box put into my possession by the Prince de la Cisterna, I first saw an Italian opera acted in an Italian theatre; where the wonders of Porporati's hand shewed me that our Bartolozzi was not without a competitor; and where every pleasure which politeness can invent, and kindness can bestow, was held out for my acceptance. Should we be seduced, however, to waste time here, we should have reason in a future day to repent our choice; like one who, enamoured of Lord Pembroke's great hall at Wilton, should fail to afford himself leisure for looking over the better-furnished apartments.
This charming town is the salon of Italy; but it is a finely-proportioned and well-ornamented salon happily constructed to call in the fresh air at the end of every street, through which a rapid stream is directed, that ought to carry off all nuisances, which here have no apology from want of any convenience purchasable by money; and which must for that reason be the choice of inhabitants, who would perhaps be too happy, had they a natural taste for that neatness which might here be enjoyed in its purity. The arches formed to defend passengers from the rain and sun, which here might have even serious effects from their violence, deserve much praise; while their architecture, uniting our ideas of comfort and beauty together, form a traveller's taste, and teach him to admire that perfection, of which a miniature may certainly be found at Turin, when once a police shall be established there to prevent such places being used for the very grossest purposes, and polluted with smells that poison all one's pleasure.
It is said, that few European palaces exceed in splendour that of Sardinia's king; I found it very fine indeed, and the pictures dazzling. The death of a dropsical woman well known among all our connoisseurs detained my attention longest: the value set on it here is ten thousand pounds. The horse cut out of a block of marble at the stairs-foot attracted me not a little; but we are told that the impression it makes will soon be effaced by the sight of greater wonders. Mean time I go about like Stephano and his ignorant companions, who longed for all the glittering furniture of Prospero's cell in the Tempest, while those who know the place better are vindicated in crying, "Let it alone, thou fool, it is but trash."
Some letters from home directed me to enquire in this town for Doctor Charles Allioni, who kindly received, and permitted me to examine the rarities, of which he has a very capital collection. His fossil fish in slate—blue slate, are surprisingly well preserved; but there is in the world, it seems, a chrystalized trout, not flat, nor the flesh eaten away, as I understand, but round; and, as it were, cased in chrystal like our aspiques, or fruit in jelly: the colour still so perfect that you may plainly perceive the spots upon it, he says. To my enquiries after this wonderful petrefaction, he replied, "That it might be bought for a thousand pounds;" and added, "that if he were a Ricco Inglese[Footnote: Rich Englishman], he would not hesitate for the price:" "Where may I see it, Sir?" said I; but to that question no intreaties could produce an answer, after he once found I had no mind to buy.
That fresh-water fish have been known to remain locked in the flinty bosom of Monte Uda in Carnia, the Academical Discourse of Cyrillo de Cremona, pronounced there in the year 1749, might have informed us; and we are all familiar, I suppose, with the anchor named in the fifteenth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Strabo mentions pieces of a galley found three thousand stadii from any sea; and Dr. Allioni tells me, that Monte Bolca has been long acknowledged to contain the fossils, now diligently digging out under the patronage of some learned naturalists at Verona.—The trout, however, is of value much beyond these productions certainly, as it is closed round as if in a transparent case we find, hermetically sealed by the soft hand of Nature, who spoiled none of her own ornaments in preserving them for the inspection of her favourite students.
The amiable old professor from whom these particulars were obtained, and who endured my teizing him in bad Italian for intelligence he cared not to communicate, with infinite sweetness and patience grew kinder to me as I became more troublesome to him: and shewing me the book upon botany to which he had just then put the last line; turned his dim eyes from me, and said, as they filled with tears, "You, Madam, are the last visitor I shall ever more admit to talk upon earthly subjects; my work is done; I finished it as you were entering:—my business now is but to wait the will of God, and die; do you, who I hope will live long and happily, seek out your own salvation, and pray for mine." Poor dear Doctor Allioni! My enquiries concerning this truly venerable mortal ended in being told that his relations and heirs teized him cruelly to sell his manuscripts, insects, &c. and divide the money amongst them before he died. An English scholar of the same abilities would be apt enough to despise such admonitions, and dispose at his own liking and leisure of what his industry alone had gained, his learning only collected; but there seems to be much more family fondness on the Continent than in our island; more attention to parents, more care for uncles, and nephews, and sisters, and aunts, than in a commercial country like ours, where, for the most part, each one makes his own way separate; and having received little assistance at the beginning of life, considers himself as little indebted at the close of it.
Whoever takes a long journey, however he may at his first commencement be tempted to accumulate schemes of convenience and combinations of travelling niceties, will cast them off in the course of his travels as incumbrances; and whoever sets out in life, I believe, with a crowd of relations round him, will, on the same principle, feel disposed to drop one or two of them at every turn, as they hang about and impede his progress, and make his own game single-handed. I speak of Englishmen, whose religion and government inspire rather a spirit of public benevolence, than contract the social affections to a point; and co-operate, besides, to prompt that genius for adventure, and taste of general knowledge, which has small chance to spring up in the inhabitants of a feudal state; where each considers his family as himself, and having derived all the comfort he has ever enjoyed from his relations, resolves to return their favours at the end of a life, which they make happy, in proportion as it is so: and this accounts for the equality required in continental marriages, which are avowedly made here without regard to inclination, as the keeping up a family, not the choice of a companion, is considered as important; while the lady bred up in the same notions, complies with her first duties, and considers the second as infinitely more dispensable.
Nov. 1, 1784.
It was on the twenty-first of last month that we passed from Turin to Monte Casale; and I wondered, as I do still, to see the face of Nature yet without a wrinkle, though the season is so far advanced. Like a Parisian female of forty years old, dressed for court, and stored with such variety of well-arranged allurements, that the men say to each other as she passes.—"Des qu'elle a cessee d'estre jolie, elle n'en devient que plus belle, ce me semble[E]."
[Footnote E: She's grown handsomer, I think, since she has left off being pretty.]
The prospect from St. Salvadore's hill derives new beauties from the yellow autumn; and exhibits such glowing proofs of opulence and fertility, as words can with difficulty communicate. The animals, however, do not seem benefited in proportion to the apparent riches of the country: asses, indeed, grow to a considerable size, but the oxen are very small, among pastures that might suffice for Bakewell's bulls; and these are all little, and almost all white; a colour which gives unfavourable ideas either of strength or duration.
The blanche rose among vegetables scatters a less powerful perfume than the red one; whilst in the mineral kingdom silver holds but the second place to gold, which imbibing the bright hues of its parent-sun, becomes the first and greatest of all metallic productions. One may observe too, that yellow is the earliest colour to salute the rising year, the last to leave it: crocuses, primroses, and cowslips give the first earnest of resuscitating summer; while the lemon-coloured butterfly, whose name I have forgotten, ventures out, before any others of her kind can brave the parting breath of winter's last storms; stoutest to resist cold, and steadiest in her manner of flying. The present season is yellow indeed, and nothing is to be seen now but sun-flowers and African marygolds around us; one bough besides, on every tree we pass—one bough at least is tinged with the golden hue; and if it does put one in mind of that presented to Proserpine, we may add the original line too, and say,
Uno avulfo, non deficit alter[F].
[Footnote F: Pluck one away, another still remains. ]
The sure-footed and docile mule, with which in England I was but little acquainted, here claims no small attention, from his superior size and beauty: the disagreeable noise they make so frequently, however, hinders one from wishing to ride them—it is not braying somehow, but worse; it is neighing out of tune.
I have put nothing down about eating since we arrived in Italy, where no wretched hut have I yet entered that does not afford soup, better than one often tastes in England even at magnificent tables. Game of all sorts—woodcocks in particular. Porporati, the so justly-famed engraver, produced upon his hospitable board, one of the pleasant days we passed with him, a couple so exceedingly large, that I hesitated, and looked again, to see whether they were really woodcocks, till the long bill convinced me.
One reads of the luxurious emperors that made fine dishes of the little birds brains, phenicopter's tongues, &c. and of the actor who regaled his guests with nightingale-pie, with just detestation of such curiosity and expence: but thrushes, larks, and blackbirds, are so very frequent between Turin and Novi, I think they might serve to feed all the fantastical appetites to which Vitellius himself could give encouragement and example.
The Italians retain their tastes for small birds in full force; and consider beccafichi, ortolani, &c. as the most agreeable dainties: it must be confessed that they dress them incomparably. The sheep here are all lean and dirty-looking, few in number too; but the better the soil the worse the mutton we know, and here is no land to throw away, where every inch turns to profit in the olive-yards, vines, or something of much higher value than letting out to feed sheep.
Population seems much as in France, I think: but the families are not, in either nation, disposed according to British notions of propriety; all stuffed together into little towns and large houses, entessees, as the French call it; one upon another, in such a strange way, that were it not for the quantity of grapes on which the poor people live, with other acescent food enjoined by the church, and doubtless suggested by the climate, I think putrid fevers must necessarily carry off crowds of them at once.
The head-dress of the women in this drive through some of the northern states of Italy varied at every post; from the velvet cap, commonly a crimson one, worn by the girls in Savoia, to the Piedmontese plait round the bodkin at Turin, and the odd kind of white wrapper used in the exterior provinces of the Genoese dominions. Uniformity of almost any sort gives a certain pleasure to the eye, and it seems an invariable rule in these countries that all the women of every district should dress just alike. It is the best way of making the men's task easy in judging which is handsomest; for taste so varies the human figure in France and England, that it is impossible to have an idea how many pretty faces and agreeable forms would lose and how many gain admirers in those nations, were a sudden edict to be published that all should dress exactly alike for a year. Mean time, since we left Deffeins, no such delightful place by way of inn have we yet seen as here at Novi. My chief amusement at Alexandria was to look out upon the huddled marketplace, as a great dramatic writer of our day has called it; and who could help longing there for Zoffani's pencil to paint the lively scene?
Passing the Po by moon-light near Casale exhibited an entertainment of a very different nature, not unmixed with ill-concealed fear indeed; though the contrivance of crossing it is not worse managed than a ferry at Kew or Richmond used to be before our bridges were built. Bridges over the rapid Po would, however, be truly ridiculous; when swelled by the mountain snows it tears down all before it in its fury, and inundates the country round.
The drive from Novi on to Genoa is so beautiful, so grand, so replete with imagery, that fancy itself can add little to its charms: yet, after every elegance and every ornament have been justly admired, from the cloud which veils the hill, to the wild shrubs which perfume the valley; from the precipices which alarm the imagination, to the tufts of wood which flatter and sooth it; the sea suddenly appearing at the end of the Bocchetta terminates our view, and takes from one even the hope of expressing our delight in words adequate to the things described.
Genoa la Superba stands proudly on the margin of a gulph crowded with ships, and resounding with voices, which never fail to animate a British hearer—the Tailor's shout, the mariner's call, swelled by successful commerce, or strengthened by newly-acquired fame.
After a long journey by land, such scenes are peculiarly delightful; but description tangles, not communicates, the sensations imbibed upon the spot. Here are so many things to describe! such churches! such palaces! such pictures! one would imagine the Genoese possessed the empire of the ocean, were it not well known that they call but fix galleys their own, and seventy years ago suffered all the horrors of a bombardment.
The Dorian palace is exceedingly fine; the Durazzo palace, for ought I know, is finer; and marble here seems like what one reads of silver in King Solomon's time, which, says the Scripture, "was nothing counted on in the days of Solomon" Casa Brignoli too is splendid and commodious; the terraces and gardens on the house-tops, and the fresco paintings outside, give one new ideas of human life; and exhibits a degree of luxury unthought-on in colder climates. But here we live on green pease and figs the first day of November, while orange and lemon trees flaunt over the walls more common than pears in England.
The Balbi mansion, filled with pictures, detained us from the churches filled with more. I have heard some of the Italians confess that Genoa even pretends to vie with Rome herself in ecclesiastical splendour. In devotion I should think she would be with difficulty outdone: the people drop down on their knees in the street, and crowd to the church doors while the benediction is pronouncing, with a zeal which one might hope would draw down stores of grace upon their heads. Yet I hear from the inhabitants of other provinces, that they have a bad character among their neighbours, who love not the base Ligurian and accuse them of many immoralities. They tell one too of a disreputable saying here, how there are at Genoa men without honesty, women without modesty, a sea with no fish, and a wood with no birds. Birds, however, here certainly are by the million, and we have eaten fish since we came every day; but I am informed they are neither cheap nor plentiful, nor considered as excellent in their kinds. Here is macaroni enough however!—the people bring in such a vast dish of it at a time, it disgusts one.
The streets of the town are much too narrow for beauty or convenience—impracticable to coaches, and so beset with beggars that it is dreadful. A chair is therefore, above all things, necessary to be carried in, even a dozen steps, if you are likely to feel shocked at having your knees suddenly clasped by a figure hardly human; who perhaps holding you forcibly for a minute, conjures you loudly, by the sacred wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ, to have compassion upon his; shewing you at the same time such undeniable and horrid proofs of the anguish he is suffering, that one must be a monster to quit him unrelieved. Such pathetic misery, such disgusting distress, did I never see before, as I have been witness to in this gaudy city—and that not occasionally or by accident, but all day long, and in such numbers that humanity shrinks from the description. Sure, charity is not the virtue that they pray for, when begging a blessing at the church-door.
One should not however speak unkindly of a people whose affectionate regard for our country shewed itself so clearly during the late war: a few days residence with the English consul here at his country seat gave me an opportunity of hearing many instances of the Republic's generous attachment to Great Britain, whose triumphs at Gibraltar over the united forces of France and Spain were honestly enjoyed by the friendly Genoese, who gave many proofs of their sincerity, more solid than those clamorous ones of huzzaing our minister about wherever he went, and crying Viva il General ELIOTT; while many young gentlemen of high station offered themselves to go volunteers aboard our fleet, and were with difficulty restrained.
We have been shewed some beautiful villas belonging to the noblemen of this city, among which Lomellino's pleased me best; as the water there was so particularly beautiful, that he had generously left it at full liberty to roll unconducted, and murmur through his tasteful pleasure grounds, much in the manner of our lovely Leasowes; happily uniting with English simplicity, the glowing charms that result from an Italian sky. My eyes were so wearied with square edged basons of marble, and jets d'eaux, surrounded by water nymphs and dolphins, that I felt vast relief from Lomellino's garden, who, like me,
Tir'd with the joys parterres and fountains yield, Finds out at last he better likes a field.
Such felicity of situation I never saw till now, when one looks upon the painted front of this gay mansion, commanding from its fine balcony a rich and extensive view at once of the sea, the city, and the snow-topt mountains; while from the windows on the other side the house, one's eye sinks into groves of cedar, ilex, and orange trees, not apparently cultivated with incessant care, or placed in pots, artfully sunk under ground to conceal them from one's sight, but rising into height truly respectable.
The sea air, except in particular places where the land lies in some direction that counteracts its influence, is naturally inimical to timber; though the green coasts of Devonshire are finely fringed with wood; and here, at Lomellino's villa, in the Genoese state, I found two plane trees, of a size and serious dignity, that recalled to my mind the solemn oak before our duke of Dorset's seat at Knowle—and chesnuts, which would not disgrace the forests of America. A rural theatre, cut in turf, with a concealed orchestra and sod seats for the audience, with a mossy stage, not incommodious neither, and an admirable contrivance for shifting the scenes, and savouring the exits, entrances, &c. of the performers, gave me a perfect idea of that refined luxury which hot countries alone inspire—while another elegantly constructed spot, meant and often used for the entertainment of tenants and dependants who come to rejoice on the birth or wedding day of a kind landlord, make one suppress one's sighs after a free country—at least suspend them; and fill one's heart with tenderness towards men, who have skill to soften authority with indulgence, and virtue to reward obedience with protection.
A family coming last night to visit at a house where I had the honour of being admitted as an intimate, gave me another proof of my present state of remoteness from English manners. The party consisted of an old nobleman, who could trace his genealogy unblemished up to one of the old Roman emperors, but whose fortune is now in a hopeless state of decay:—his lady, not inferior to himself in birth or haughtiness of air and carriage, but much impaired by age, ill health, and pecuniary distress; these had however no way lessened her ideas of her own dignity, or the respect of her cavalier servente and her son, who waited on her with an unremitted attention; presenting her their little dirty tin snuff-boxes upon one knee by turns; which ceremony the less surprised me, as having seen her train made of a dyed and watered lutestring, borne gravely after her up stairs by a footman, the express image of Edgar in the storm-scene of king Lear—who, as the fool says, "wisely reserv'd a blanket, else had we all been 'shamed."
Our conversation was meagre, but serious. There was music; and the door being left at jar, as we call it, I watched the wretched servant who staid in the antichamber, and found that he was listening in spight of sorrow and starving.
With this slight sketch of national manners I finish my chapter, and proceed to the description of, or rather observations and reflections made during a winter's residence at
For we did not stay at Pavia to see any thing: it rained so, that no pleasure could have been obtained by the sight of a botanical garden; and as to the university, I have the promise of seeing it upon a future day, in company of some literary friends. Truth to tell, our weather is suddenly become so wet, the roads so heavy with incessant rain, that king William's departure from his own foggy country, or his welcome to our gloomy one, where this month is melancholy even, to a proverb, could not have been clouded with a thicker atmosphere surely, than was mine to Milan upon the fourth day of dismal November, 1784.
Italians, by what I can observe, suffer their minds to be much under the dominion of the sky; and attribute every change in their health, or even humour, as seriously to its influence, as if there were no nearer causes of alteration than the state of the air, and as if no doubt remained of its immediate power, though they are willing enough here to poison it with the scent of wood-ashes within doors, while fires in the grate seem to run rather low, and a brazier full of that pernicious stuff is substituted in its place, and driven under the table during dinner. It is surprising how very elegant, not to say magnificent, those dinners are in gentlemen's or noblemen's houses; such numbers of dishes at once; not large joints, but infinite variety: and I think their cooking excellent. Fashion keeps most of the fine people out of town yet; we have therefore had leisure to establish our own household for the winter, and have done so as commodiously as if our habitation was fixed here for life. This I am delighted with, as one may chance to gain that insight into every day behaviour, and common occurrences, which can alone be called knowing something of a country: counting churches, pictures, palaces, may be done by those who run from town to town, with no impression made but on their bones. I ought to learn that which before us lies in daily life, if proper use were made of my demi-naturalization; yet impediments to knowledge spring up round the very tree itself—for surely if there was much wrong, I would not tell it of those who seem inclined to find all right in me; nor can I think that a fame for minute observation, and skill to discern folly with a microscopic eye, is in any wise able to compensate for the corrosions of conscience, where such discoveries have been attained by breach of confidence, and treachery towards unguarded, because unsuspecting innocence of conduct. We are always laughing at one another for running over none but the visible objects in every city, and for avoiding the conversation of the natives, except on general subjects of literature—returning home only to tell again what has already been told. By the candid inhabitants of Italian states, however, much honour is given to our British travellers, who, as they say, viaggiono con profitto[Footnote: Travel for improvement], and scarce ever fail to carry home with them from other nations, every thing which can benefit or adorn their own. Candour, and a good humoured willingness to receive and reciprocate pleasure, seems indeed one of the standing virtues of Italy; I have as yet seen no fastidious contempt, or affected rejection of any thing for being what we call low; and I have a notion there is much less of those distinctions at Milan than at London, where birth does so little for a man, that if he depends on that, and forbears other methods of distinguishing himself from his footman, he will stand a chance of being treated no better than him by the world. Here a person's rank is ascertained, and his society settled, at his immediate entrance into life; a gentleman and lady will always be regarded as such, let what will be their behaviour.—It is therefore highly commendable when they seek to adorn their minds by culture, or pluck out those weeds, which in hot countries will spring up among the riches of the harvest, and afford a sure, but no immediately pleasing proof of the soil's natural fertility. But my country-women would rather hear a little of our interieur, or, as we call it, family management; which appears arranged in a manner totally new to me; who find the lady of every house as unacquainted with her own, and her husband's affairs, as I who apply to her for information.—No house account, no weekly bills perplex her peace; if eight servants are kept, we will say, six of these are men, and two of those men out of livery. The pay of these principal figures in the family, when at the highest rate, is fifteen pence English a day, out of which they find clothes and eating—for fifteen pence includes board-wages; and most of these fellows are married too, and have four or five children each. The dinners drest at home are, for this reason, more exactly contrived than in England to suit the number of guests, and there are always half a dozen; for dining alone or the master and mistress tete-a-tete as we do, is unknown to them, who make society very easy, and resolve to live much together. No odd sensation then, something like shame, such as we feel when too many dishes are taken empty from table, touches them at all; the common courses are eleven, and eleven small plates, and it is their sport and pleasure, if possible, to clear all away. A footman's wages is a shilling a day, like our common labourers, and paid him, as they are paid, every Saturday night. His livery, mean time, changed at least twice a year, makes him as rich a man as the butler and valet—but when evening comes, it is the comicallest sight in the world to see them all go gravely home, and you may die in the night for want of help, though surrounded by showy attendants all day. Till the hour of departure, however, it is expected that two or three of them at least sit in the antichamber, as it is called, to answer the bell, which, if we confess the truth, is no light service or hardship; for the stairs, high and wide as those of Windsor palace, all stone too, run up from the door immediately to that apartment, which is very large, and very cold, with bricks to set their feet on only, and a brazier filled with warm wood ashes, to keep their fingers from freezing, which in summer they employ with cards, and seem but little inclined to lay them down when ladies pass through to the receiving room. The strange familiarity this class of people think proper to assume, half joining in the conversation, and crying oibo[Footnote: Oh dear!], when the master affirms something they do not quite assent to, is apt to shock one at beginning, the more when one reflects upon the equally offensive humility they show on being first accepted into the family; when it is exposed that they receive the new master, or lady's hand, in a half kneeling posture, and kiss it, as women under the rank of Countess do the Queen of England's when presented at our court.—This obsequiousness, however, vanishes completely upon acquaintance, and the footman, if not very seriously admonished indeed, yawns, spits, and displays what one of our travel-writers emphatically terms his flag of abomination behind the chair of a woman of quality, without the slightest sensation of its impropriety. There is, however, a sort of odd farcical drollery mingled with this grossness, which tends greatly to disarm one's wrath; and I felt more inclined to laugh than be angry one day, when, from the head of my own table, I saw the servant of a nobleman who dined with us cramming some chicken pattes down his throat behind the door; our own folks humorously trying to choak him, by pretending that his lord called him, while his mouth was full. Of a thousand comical things in the same way, I will relate one:—Mr. Piozzi's valet was dressing my hair at Paris one morning, while some man sate at an opposite window of the same inn, singing and playing upon the violoncello: I had not observed the circumstance, but my perrucchiere's distress was evident; he writhed and twisted about like a man pinched with the cholic, and pulled a hundred queer faces: at last—What is the matter, Ercolani, said I, are you not well? Mistress, replies the fellow, if that beast don't leave off soon, I shall run mad with rage, or else die; and so you'll see an honest Venetian lad killed by a French dog's howling.
The phrase of mistress is here not confined to servants at all; gentlemen, when they address one, cry, mia padrona[Footnote: My mistress], mighty sweetly, and in a peculiarly pleasing tone. Nothing, to speak truth, can exceed the agreeableness of a well-bred Italian's address when speaking to a lady, whom they alone know how to flatter, so as to retain her dignity, and not lose their own; respectful, yet tender; attentive, not officious; the politeness of a man of fashion here is true politeness, free from all affectation, and honestly expressive of what he really feels, a true value for the person spoken to, without the smallest desire of shining himself; equally removed from foppery on one side, or indifference on the other. The manners of the men here are certainly pleasing to a very eminent degree, and in their conversation there is a mixture, not unfrequent too, of classical allusions, which strike one with a sort of literary pleasure I cannot easily describe. Yet is there no pedantry in their use of expressions, which with us would be laughable or liable to censure: but Roman notions here are not quite extinct; and even the house-maid, or donna di gros, as they call her, swears by Diana so comically, there is no telling. They christen their boys Fabius, their daughters Claudia, very commonly. When they mention a thing known, as we say, to Tom o'Styles and John o'Nokes, they use the words, Tizio and Sempronio. A lady tells me, she was at a loss about the dance yesterday evening, because she had not been instructed in the programma; and a gentleman, talking of the pleasures he enjoyed supping last night at a friend's house, exclaims, Eramo pur jeri sera in Appolline[G]! alluding to Lucullus's entertainment given to Pompey and Cicero, as I remember, in the chamber of Apollo. But here is enough of this—more of it, in their own pretty phrase, seccarebbe pur Nettunno[H]. It was long ago that Ausonius said of them more than I can say, and Mr. Addison has translated the lines in their praise better than I could have done.
[Footnote G: We passed yester evening as if we had been in the Apollo.]
[Footnote H: Would dry up old Neptune himself.]
"Et Mediolani mira omnia copia rerum: Innumerae cultaeque domus facunda virorum Ingenia et mores laeti."
Milan with plenty and with wealth overflows, And numerous streets and cleanly dwellings shows; The people, bless'd by Nature's happy force, Are eloquent and cheerful in discourse.
What I have said this moment will, however, account in some measure for a thing which he treats with infinite contempt, not unjustly perhaps; yet does it not deserve the ridicule handed down from his time by all who have touched the subject. It is about the author, who before his theatrical representation prefixes an odd declaration, that though he names Pluto, and Neptune, and I know not who, upon the stage, yet he believes none of those fables, but considers himself as a Christian, a Catholick, &c. All this does appear very absurdly superfluous to us; but as I observed, they live nearer the original feats of paganism; many old customs are yet retained, and the names not lost among them, or laid up merely for literary purposes as in England. They swear per Bacco perpetually in common discourse; and once I saw a gentleman in the heat of conversation blush at the recollection that he had said barba Fove, where he meant God Almighty.
It is likewise unkind enough in Mr. Addison, perhaps unjust too, to speak with scorn of the libraries, or state of literature, at Milan. The collection of books at Brera is prodigious, and has been lately much increased by the Pertusanian and Firmian libraries falling into it: a more magnificent repository for learning, a more comfortable situation for students, so complete and perfect a disposition of the books, will scarcely be found in any other city not professedly a university, I believe; and here are professors worthy of the highest literary stations, that do honour to learning herself. I will not indulge myself by naming any one, where all deserve the highest praise; and it is so difficult to restrain one's pen upon so favourite a subject, that I shall only name some rarities which particularly struck me, and avoid further temptations, where the sense of obligation, and the recollection of partial kindness, inspire an inclination to praises which appear tedious to those readers who could not enter into my feelings, and of course would scarcely excuse them.
Thirteen volumes of MS. Psalms, written with wonderful elegance and manual nicety, struck me as very curious: they were done by the Certosini monks lately eradicated, and with beautiful illuminations to almost every page. A Livy, printed here in 1418, fresh and perfect; and a Pliny, of the Parma press, dated 1472; are extremely valuable. But the pleasure I received from observing that the learned librarian had not denied a place to Tillotson's works, was counteracted by finding Bolingbroke's philosophy upon the same shelf, and enjoying exactly the same reputation as to the truth of the doctrine contained in either; for both were English, and of course heretical.
But I must not live longer at Milan without mentioning the Duomo, first in all Europe of the Gothic race; whose solemn sadness and gloomy dignity make it a most magnificent cathedral; while the rich treasures it conceals below exceeded my belief or expectation.
We came here just before the season of commemorating the virtues of the immortal Carlo Borromeo, to whose excellence all Italy bears testimony, and Milan most; while the Lazaretto erected by him remains a standing monument of his piety, charity, and peculiar regard to this city, which he made his residence during the dreadful plague that so devasted it; tenderly giving to its helpless inhabitants the consolation of seeing their priest, provider, and protector, all united under one incomparable character, who fearless of death remained among them, and comforted their sorrows with his constant presence. It would be endless to enumerate the schools, hospitals, infirmaries, erected by this surprising man. The peculiar excellence of his lazaretto, however, depends on each habitation being nicely separated from every other, so as to keep infection aloof; while uniformity of architecture is still preserved, being built in a regular quadrangle, with a chapel in the middle, and a fresh stream flowing round, so as to benefit every particular house, and keep out all necessity of connection between the sick. I am become better acquainted with these matters, as this is the precise time when the immortal Carlo Borromeo's actions are rehearsed, and his praises celebrated, by people appointed in every church to preach his example and record his excellence.
A statue of solid silver, large as life, and resembling, as they hope, his person, decorated with rings, &c. of immense value, is now exposed in church for people to venerate; and the subterranean chapel, where his body lies, is all wainscoted, as I may say, with silver; every separate compartment chased, like our old-fashioned watch-cases, with some story out of his life, which lasted but forty-seven years, after having done more good than any other person in ninety-four; as a capuchin friar said this morning, who mounted the pulpit to praise him, and seemed to be well thought on by his auditors. The chanting tone in which he spoke displeased me, however, who can be at last no competent judge of eloquence in any language but my own.
There is a national rhetoric in every country, dependant on national manners; and those gesticulations of body, or depressions of voice, which produce pity and commiseration in one place, may, without censure of the orator or of his hearers, excite contempt and oscitancy in another. The sentiments of the preacher I heard were just and vigorous; and if that suffices not to content a foreign ear, woe be to me, who now live among those to whom I am myself a foreigner; and who at best can but be expected to forgive, for the sake of the things said, that accent and manner with which I am obliged to express them.
By the indulgence of private friendship, I have now enjoyed the uncommon amusement of seeing a theatrical exhibition performed by friars in a convent for their own diversion, and that of some select friends. The monks of St. Victor had, it seems, obtained permission, this carnival, to represent a little odd sort of play, written by one of their community chiefly in the Milanese dialect, though the upper characters spoke Tuscan. The subject of this drama was taken, naturally enough, from some events, real or fictitious, which were supposed to have happened in, the environs of Milan, about a hundred years ago, when the Torriani and Visconti families disputed for superiority. Its construction was compounded of comic and distressful scenes, of which the last gave me most delight; and much was I amazed, indeed, to feel my cheeks wet with tears at a friar's play, founded on ideas of parental tenderness. The comic part, however, was intolerably gross; the jokes coarse, and incapable of diverting any but babies, or men who, by a kind of intellectual privation, contrive to perpetuate babyhood, in the vain hope of preferring innocence: nor could I shelter myself by saying how little I understood of the dialect it was written in, as the action was nothing less than equivocal; and in the burletta which was tacked to it by way of farce, I saw the soprano fingers who played the women's parts, and who see more of the world than these friars, blush for shame, two or three times, while the company, most of them grave ecclesiastics, applauded with rapturous delight.
The wearisome length of the whole would, however, have surfeited me, had the amusement been more eligible; but these dear monks do not get a holiday often, I trust; so in the manner of school-boys, or rather school-girls in England (for our boys are soon above such stuff), they were never tired of this dull buffoonery, and kept us listening to it till one o'clock in the morning.
Pleasure, when it does come, always bursts up in an unexpected place; I derived much from observing in the faces of these cheerful friars, that intelligent shrewdness and arch penetration so visible in the countenances of our Welch farmers, and curates of country villages in Flintshire, Caernarvonshire, &c. which Howel (best judge in such a case) observes in his Letters, and learnedly accounts for; but which I had wholly forgotten till the monks of St. Victor brought it back to my remembrance.
The brothers who remained unemployed, and clear from stage occupations, formed the orchestra; those that were left then without any immediate business upon their hands, chatted gaily with the company, producing plenty of refreshments; and I was really very angry with myself for feeling so cynically disposed, when every thing possible was done to please me. Can one help however sighing, to think that the monastic life, so capable of being used for the noblest purposes, and originally suggested by the purest motives, should, from the vast diversity of orders, the increase of wealth and general corruption of mankind, degenerate into a state either of mental apathy, as among the sequestered monks, or of vicious luxury, as among the more free and open societies?
Yet must one still behold both with regret and indignation, that rage for innovation which delights to throw down places once the retreats of Piety and Learning—Piety, who fought in vain to wall and fortify herself against those seductions which since have sapped the venerable fabric that they feared to batter; and Learning, who first opened the eyes of men, that now ungratefully begin to turn them only on the defeats of their benefactress.
The Christmas functions here were showy, and I thought well-contrived; the public ones are what I speak of: but I was present lately at a private merrymaking, where all distinctions seemed pleasingly thrown down by a spirit of innocent gaiety. The Marquis's daughter mingled in country-dances with the apothecary's prentice, while her truly noble parents looked on with generous pleasure, and encouraged the mirth of the moment. Priests, ladies, gentlemen of the very first quality, romped with the girls of the house in high good-humour, and tripped it away without the incumbrance of petty pride, or the mean vanity of giving what they expressively call foggezzione, to those who were proud of their company and protection. A new-married wench, whose little fortune of a hundred crowns had been given her by the subscription of many in the room, seemed as free with them all, as the most equal distribution of birth or riches could have made her: she laughed aloud, and rattled in the ears of the gentlemen; replied with sarcastic coarseness when they joked her, and apparently delighted to promote such conversation as they would not otherwise have tried at. The ladies shouted for joy, encouraged the girl with less delicacy than desire of merriment, and promoted a general banishment of decorum; though I do believe with full as much or more purity of intention, than may be often met with in a polished circle at Paris itself.
Such society, however, can please a stranger only as it is odd and as it is new; when ceremony ceases, hilarity is left in a state too natural not to offend people accustomed to scenes of high civilization; and I suppose few of us could return, after twenty-five years old, to the coarse comforts of a roll and treacle.
Another style of amusement, very different from this last, called us out, two or three days ago, to hear the famous Passione de Metastasio sung in St. Celso's church. The building is spacious, the architecture elegant, and the ornaments rich. A custom too was on this occasion omitted, which I dislike exceedingly; that of deforming the beautiful edifices dedicated to God's service with damask hangings and gold lace on the capitals of all the pillars upon days of gala, so very perversely, that the effect of proportion is lost to the eye, while the church conveys no idea to the mind but of a tattered theatre; and when the frippery decorations fade, nothing can exclude the recollection of an old clothes shop. St. Celso was however left clear from these disgraceful ornaments: there assembled together a numerous and brilliant, if not an attentive audience; and St. Peter's part in the oratorio was sung by a soprano voice, with no appearance of peculiar propriety to be sure; but a satirical nobleman near me said, that "Nothing could possibly be more happily imagined, as the mutilation of poor St. Peter was continuing daily, and in full force;" alluding to the Emperor's rough reformations: and he does not certainly spare the coat any more than Jack in our Tale of a Tub, when he is rending away the embroidery. Here, however, the parallel must end; for Jack, though zealous, was never accused of burning the lace, if I remember right, and putting the gold in his pocket. It happened oddly, that chatting freely one day before dinner with some literary friends on the subject of coat armour, we had talked about the Visconti serpent, which is the arms of Milan; and the spread eagle of Austria, which we laughingly agreed ought to eat double because it had two necks: when the conversation insensibly turned on the oppressions of the present hour; and I, to put all away with a joke, proposed the fortes Homericae to decide on their future destiny. Somebody in company insisted that I should open the book—I did so, at the omen in the twelfth book of the Iliad, and read these words: