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To William H. Prescott.

Rome, January 25, 1857.
Dear William,—I have received your characteristic and agreeable letter of December 8, and received it in Rome, as you thought I should. It is a nice old place to get pleasant news in, and to live in, and to go about; a little out of repair, to be sure, as the Cockney said, but not the worse for that. At least, such as it is, I observe that those who have been here once are more glad to come again than if they had never been, and that those who have lived here long are apt to hanker after it, and come at last to end their days among its ruins and recollections . . .. Nor am I much astonished at it. The society is not exactly like what society is in any other capital in the world; but it is very attractive, and has gradually settled into forms well fitted to its condition and character. Mad. de Stael—who was a good judge, and a dainty one, too, in such matters—is known to have liked it very much, and to have spoken of it in a way that sometimes surprised her friends in Paris. In Corinne,—I think it is, at any rate it is somewhere,—speaking of Rome she says, ‘C'est le salon de l'europe,’ and the phrase has its force. More or less distinguished and intellectual persons come here every winter from the different countries of Europe, and as there is really but one society, they must either live isolated, or among their own countrymen, or meet in the common places of exchange for all, and carry on, in the conversational language of all, an intercourse which never wants topics for agreeable conversation. . . . .

Society has grown more luxurious, more elaborate, and less gay. The ladies' dresses, by their size, really embarrass it somewhat, and Queen Christina,1 with the ceremonies attending such a personage everywhere, embarrasses it still more this year. Above all, it costs too much. Three balls, therefore, are as much as anybody gave last winter, or will give this year. The rest is made up of tea and talk, ices and sideboard refreshments, which at Count Lutzow's and the Marquis Spinola's are very agreeable once a week, and pretty dull at the Roman Princesses of the race of Fabius Maximus. At all the other palazzos—and in sundry other places—a half-hour or an hour may be spent pleasantly, whenever the inmates are not out visiting, a fact politely intimated by shutting half of the porte-cochere. I go pretty often in this way, especially to the Borgheses',2 where there is

1 Dowager-Queen of Spain.

2 One evening in conversation with the Dowager-Princess Borghese, the fact was noticed that in his three visits to Europe, Mr. Ticknor had met members of five generations of the family of the Princess, who was nee la Rochefoucauld. An appointment was immediately made for his seeing her infant great-grandson, who represented the sixth generation, and Prince Borghese laughingly bade him come back in another twenty years and see the next. The frequency of this kind of incident became amusing to Mr. Ticknor's party, so that once, on seeing him introduced to an Italian lady and presently use a gesture as of measuring a small height from the ground, one exclaimed, ‘Of course, he is telling her he saw her when she was a little child,’ which proved to be the fact.

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Due De la Rochefoucauld (1)
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