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[339]

Society is abundant there, and good. I called, soon after my arrival, on Gino Capponi, and as he was not at home, left my card. The same evening he came to see us; totally blind, and led in by a friend and a servant; and afterwards came in the same way and spent three more evenings. His infirmity seems to have taken away none of his courage or spirits. He talks with the same richness and power, philosophy and faith, that he did twenty years ago, and with the same vast knowledge of facts and details, which yet never overlay or embarrass his wisdom. There are certainly few men like him. But the old, rich, powerful family, recorded by Dante,—and great before Dante's time, as well as ever since,—disappears with him, and all his vast fortune passes to another name. . . . .

And yet he bates no jot of heart or hope, and talks about the great interests of the world, and the state and prospects of Italy, as if they were his personal affairs, and as if his happiness, and that of his great race, were connected with them as they used to be. Of course he has no political influence, and desires none. In the troubles of 1848-49, when, not quite blind, he was for some months at the head of affairs, he did good service to the state by counsels of moderation; and now, when everything is changed, he preserves not only the respect of Tuscany, but of enlightened Italians everywhere; and even the personal kindness of the Grand Duke, who spoke to me of him with great respect, while on his part he did full justice to the Grand Duke, and his motives.

But his main attributes are those of a wise, learned philosopher. He ought to have lived in the days of the Stoa, or in the best days of the Roman Republic, and would have left his mark on either. The Baron von Reumont, Prussian Minister in Tuscany, who has been in Italy twenty years,—and whom Humboldt told me he considered eminently qualified to write a history of any part of the Peninsula,—said to me, ‘Once a week I spend an afternoon with the Marquis Capponi to take a lesson in Italian history. Nobody knows it as he does.’

I speak to you at large about Capponi, because you are more interested in him, I suppose, than you are in anybody else in Florence. He told me that the first hundred pages of your ‘Ferdinand and Isabella’ were translated by Mariotti,1 who used to live in Boston, and that they were better done than the rest. . . . .

I passed an evening with the Grand Duke, who, soon after we


1 Signor Antonio Gallenga, author of ‘Country Life in Piedmont,’ and works on the history and present state of Italy. Mariotti was a pseudonyme.

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