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[108]

To Professor Simon Greenleaf.

Convent of Palazzuola, July 27, 1839.
my dear friend,—I wrote you once, I think, from the palace of an English Bishop: this will go to you from a monastery of Franciscans. In Rome, the heat is intense; and the fever-laden airs of the Campagna even enter the city. Here Greene and myself have come to pass a few days,—‘hermits hoar in solemn cell.’ An English noble would give a subsidy for such a site as this. In the background is the high mountain which was once dedicated to the Latial Jove, to whom Cicero makes his eloquent appeal in the oration for Milo; and on one side, clearly discernible from my window, is Tusculum, the favorite residence of the great Roman orator. The road over which I passed in coming here is that on which Milo encountered Clodius. The stillness and solemnity that is about me makes every day appear a Sabbath. My companion is the Consul at Rome,—a dear friend of Longfellow, and a most delightful and accomplished person. The monks have given us three rooms each, besides the grand hall: each of us has a bed-room, a cabinet, and an ante-chamber. My ante-chamber is vaulted, and covered with arabesques. My other two rooms are painted, so as to resemble the cell of a hermit,—the ceiling is arched,—and I seem to see the rude stones which the pious man has built in the wilderness; and at my bedside are the beads and the crucifix. The hall is hung with pictures of the most distinguished of the order; and a fresco on the high-vaulted ceiling represents the ascension of St. Francis, its patron. What would these Fathers have said, if they could have foreseen that their retreat was to be occupied by heretics; that the hospitality of their convent was to be extended to those who do not believe in the Pope or St. Francis? You know that this order is one of the most rigid of the Roman Church. They wear neither hats nor stockings, but simply sandals for their feet. The remainder of their dress is a thick, heavy robe, or gown,—‘Odious! in woollen! 'twould a saint provoke,’—which they wear alike at all seasons. They live upon charity. One of their number lately was begging for corn of a farmer, who was treading out with his oxen the summer's harvest. The farmer, in derision, and as a way of refusing, pointed to a bag which contained a load for three men, and told the monk he was welcome to that, if he would carry it off. The monk invoked St. Francis, stooped and took up the load, and quietly carried it away! The astonished farmer followed him to the convent, and required the return of his corn. His faith was not great enough to see a miracle. It was given up; but the story coming to the ears of the governor of the town, he summarily ordered the restoration of the corn to the convent.

I have amused myself not a little in examining the library here. It consists of about a thousand volumes, all in parchment, and in Latin and Italian. There is oneSpanish work, and one German! Our poor language has not a single representative. The monks have looked with astonishment upon the avidity with which I have examined their books; I doubt if they have had such an overhauling for a century. With gloves on, I took down


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