- Florence. -- Niccolini. -- Madame Lenzoni. -- Grand Duke. -- Micali. Alberti manuscripts of Tasso. -- Gino Capponi. -- Italian society. -- Rome. -- Bunsen. -- Thorwaldsen. -- Princess Gabrielli. -- Borgheses. -- Cardinal Fesch. -- English society. -- Princess Massimo. -- Archceological lectures.
Journal.Florence, November 5.—A rainy day. I went, however, to see my friend Bellocq, whom I knew in Madrid as Secretary of the French Embassy there, and who is here Charge d'affaires from France, a bachelor, grown old, and somewhat delabre, but apparently with as much bonhomie as ever. I drove, too, to Greenough's house, but found he had gone to the United States;1 . . . . but I did little else except make inquiries about the cholera at Naples, which threatens to interfere with our plans. In the evening I went to a regular Italian conversazione, which occurs twice a week at the house of the Marchioness Lenzoni, the last descendant of one branch of the Medici family. Her house is beautifully fitted up with works of art, and is in all respects redolent of the genius of Italy, and. . . . she receives more intellectual society than anybody in Florence. She is, I suppose, about fifty years old, and, like all well-bred Italian women of her class, entirely without affectation or pretension. I found there Micali, the author of ‘Italia avanti il Dominio dei Romani,’—an old man, but very full of life and spirit; Forti, who is distinguishing himself as a political economist; a professor of mathematics, and two or three other agreeable people. . . . I was particularly glad to make the acquaintance of Micali, whose book, which I have valued these twenty years, has, I find, passed through eight or ten editions, notwithstanding its severe and learned character. November 7.—This morning I went to the gallery . . . . . The Tribune I found—as far as I can recollect—just as I left it eighteen  years ago, and I cannot express how much pleasure it gave me. . . . . It is, indeed, a sort of holy place in the arts, and even the least interested visitors speak under their breath, and tread lightly, as they glide about from the monument of one great man's genius to that of another, consecrated already by the testimony of ages. November 9.—I made a visit to Niccolini, the tragic writer and general scholar, who now, I suppose, ranks the first of his class in Florence. He is about fifty-five years old, with a fine head, but little beauty or dignity of person, and with manners always awkward and sometimes, as I hear, a little savage. I found him disposed to be agreeable, partly, perhaps, because I came from a republic, and he is a republican, or high liberal. . . . . He is engaged now in writing a history of the Suabian power in Italy; but I should think his want of all knowledge of German would be a grave impediment to his success, and that he must rely chiefly on the good proportions and finish of his book as a work of art. He is, however, much in earnest about it, and as he gives up the theatre because, as he says, he believes the opera is to prevail over it more and more, I suppose he will make it all he can. November 10.—. . . . In the evening I had a long visit from Niccolini, who, I suppose, fancies himself to have inherited the genuine spirit of the old Florentine Republic, and who is, perhaps, as much of a republican as an Italian of the nineteenth century knows how to be. His ‘John of Procida,’ the tragedy on the Sicilian Vespers, shows this plainly enough, and when I alluded to it this evening he told me a curious story about it. The French Minister here, he said, was so much annoyed by the bitterness with which the French are treated in it, that he complained to the Grand Duke, and had its representation stopped. The severe allusions to French tyranny were, however, no doubt all intended by Niccolini for the Austrians; and Count Bombelles—the same I knew at Berne—was so well aware of this, that, with his characteristic good-humor and plainness, he told his French colleague, ‘I wonder you took so much trouble about Niccolini's tragedy; the letter, to be sure, was addressed to you, but the contents of it were all meant for me.’ November 14.—I brought a letter from Prince John, of Saxony, to the Grand Duke, . . . . in consequence of which I received yesterday, from Count Fossombroni, the Prime Minister, a formal despatch, saying that the Grand Duke would receive me to-day, at twelve, in his cabinet . . . . So to-day I went to the Pitti Palace, and after passing  through the regular antechambers and by the noble guards on service, was conducted through a labyrinth of passages,—one of which passed near the kitchens,—until at last I reached a small room where was one ordinary-looking old servant in attendance, out of livery. In two or three minutes he told me the Grand Duke was ready to receive me, and I passed into his cabinet, which I found a large room, excessively encumbered with rich furniture, and containing several tables covered with papers, and a desk, or working-table,. . . . before which was a beautiful bust of the Grand Duchess. The Grand Duke was standing just by the door to receive me, and carried me at once to a sofa, where we sat down together. He is thirty-nine years old, rather tall, thin, pale, and awkward. He talks French fluently and correctly, but with a strong Italian accent, and a little thickness of voice, which, added to a little real embarrassment, made it somewhat difficult to understand him, until he was en train. The subjects were chosen chiefly by himself, but after talking a little about Saxony, and the princes there, and a little more about Florence and the objects of my visit, he fastened upon the United States, and asked me a great many questions about our manners, and modes of life, our luxury, the amount of the incomes of our rich men, the way in which they are spent, etc. He was generally well enough informed to put his questions well, and always very curious and eager. Indeed, I do not know when I have seen anybody so greedy of matter-of-fact knowledge; and whenever I said anything that struck him he took out his tablets, and made a note of it, as if he meant to seize every occasion to pick up a fact. At last, as the conversation grew more interesting to him, he kept his tablets constantly in his hand, and wrote as diligently as a German student at a lecture. On his part, he spoke of the decay of the great fortunes of the nobility in Italy with some tone of regret, though, he said, it would probably at last lead to good; and when we talked about domestic life and the purity of its relations in America, he expressed the bitterest pain at the corruption of the married state in Italy, and added, ‘If we could have in this respect your foundation to build upon, we could still have a great state in Italy. But it is too late. We are quite corrupt in all our domestic relations, and it comes chiefly, I think, from the fact that the infidelity of a husband is not thought to be at all a ground of censure.’ He asked me where I thought it the greatest good fortune for a man to be born. I told him in America. He asked why. And when I replied, that the mass of the community there, by being occupied  about the affairs of the state, instead of being confined, as they are elsewhere, to the mere drudgery of earning their own subsistence, are more truly men, and that it is more agreeable and elevating to live among them, he blushed a little, but made no answer. Just at this moment the Archbishop was announced, and the Prince, saying he should like to talk with me still further, but that he had indispensable business with the Archbishop, asked me if I would go for an instant into an adjoining room and then return to him. I did so, the Archbishop not stopping above two or three minutes. When I went back he took out his tablets again, and plied me with questions about America till nearly two o'clock, which is his dinnerhour; when, rising and going with me to the door, he thanked me for the information I had given him, and dismissed me. He struck me, on the whole, to have the character often attributed to him, of being an honest, well-meaning man, anxious to get the knowledge that will make him a faithful governor of his people; but, though with a fair and intelligent mind, so greatly wanting in firmness and energy, that it is hardly possible he should not be led and governed by designing men. This is said to be the case now, and he is growing unpopular very fast. When he came to the sovereignty, in 1824, and for six years afterwards, he was greatly loved; but since that time, and especially since the troubles in Italy in 1831-32, that grew out of the French changes of 1830, he has fallen more and more into the hands of those who desire the progress of absolutism, and has become less and less welcome to his people. Where it is all to end, it is not perhaps easy to foresee. His private and domestic character is admitted by all to be good; he lives entirely with his family, and devotes himself most laboriously to the work of government; but after all, if he does not know how to govern, and if his system is opposed to the whole spirit of his time, his good qualities will avail him nothing, and his zealous and voluntary personal labors, by making him responsible for a great deal of what he might otherwise well leave to his ministers, will only run up a heavier account with his people, and one that, in the end, may be the harder to settle. I look upon him, therefore, to be in an unhappy position, and his whole air and manner to-day seemed to me to show that he feels it to be an anxious one. . . . . November 15.—I passed some time this morning with the Cavaliere Micali, a very lively and courtly little old gentleman, who is as full of knowledge of all sorts, from his Etruscan antiquities down to the commonest gossip of the day, as a man well can be. He carried me from his own house to see the Riccardi Palace. . . . .  On my return home I had a visit from the Marquis dea Torrigiani, second son of the head of the family, a very respectable, modest young man, who travelled a few years ago in the United States. Since he came back he has interested himself in reviving and giving efficiency to some old schools for popular instruction, in which he has partly succeeded, but in which the spirit of the government is substantially against him. Even his own family give him no hearty support, I am told, though they are pleased with it, as a sort of feather in the cap of one of their number. He talks English very well, and has a quiet, gentle manner, which, with his apparent good sense, makes me augur well for his success. . . . November 16.—I went this morning with Micali to see the Marquis Gaetano Capponi, a member of one of those old Florentine families whose titles have survived their fortunes, but who still relish of the old stock. He is a retired, modest man, remarkable chiefly for his love of Tasso, and for his collection of books relative to Tasso, which, in fact, induced me to visit him. It is a very remarkable collection, comprising every edition of the poet himself of any note whatsoever, and nearly every other one, however inconsiderable; together with whatever has been written and published separately about him. The Marquis is now just about to enter into a discussion concerning the Alberti Manuscripts, as they are called, on which he means to print a pamphlet. It is a curious subject, and if he will give an historical and plain account of the matter, he will render a very acceptable service to Italian literature . . . . . The facts in the case are, I believe, as follows. The Falconieri Library at Rome, it has always been well known, contained at one time a quantity of Tasso's manuscripts, and when Foppa published, in 1666, his collection of Tasso's Inedita, he intimated in his preface that he had not published the whole contained in that library. Count Alberti, therefore, as he says, sought for this remainder of Tasso's autographs, and found them ten years since, and purchased them of the present Prince Falconieri, making an exact schedule of what he took, and obtaining the Prince's receipt at the bottom of it. It was soon bruited about that Count Alberti was in possession of very curious autograph manuscripts of Tasso, which left no doubt that the mutual attachment between himself and Eleonora of Este was the real cause of his confinement, and that his insanity was feigned at the command of the Duke, to avoid worse consequences. Thereupon the Prince Falconieri, without notice to Count Alberti, reclaimed his manuscripts by process of law, as having  been in fact, if not in form, stolen from him; to all which the Count replied by the schedule and receipt, and the matter was quashed. So much the greater, however, was the noise the manuscripts made in the world; the Grand Duke of Tuscany heard of them and entered into treaty for them; they were brought to Florence, and he agreed to give six thousand crowns for them, if they should be found genuine by persons skilled in manuscripts. But here was the rub. Experts beyond all suspicion of unfairness examined them, and declined to pronounce them genuine, without absolutely declaring them to be forgeries; the Grand Duke gave Count Alberti some hundred crowns for his trouble, and from that time–which is now three years—the general opinion has gone against their authenticity. Count Alberti, on his side, appeals to the well-known facts touching the Falconieri Library, and to the legal suit, and objects to the persons who examined his manuscripts, that they ought not to have been mere experts in handwriting, but rather men of letters, who should have judged in part, at least, from internal evidence and historical proofs. On the other hand, it is said that Count Alberti is an adventurer, who had formerly been an officer in the army; that, among other doubtful characteristics and accomplishments, he has that of being able to imitate all sorts of handwriting; that, knowing the history of the Falconieri Library, he went there and found two or three sonnets, and other inconsiderable autograph manuscripts of Tasso; that he then, probably, entered into an arrangement with the Prince to carry on the imposition of making others, which the Prince should seem to sell him by schedule; that the lawsuit was intended merely to give form to the fraud; that the Count has not been frank and open in showing all the manuscripts to those who could best judge, or who had suspicions of their authenticity; that a man of honor could never have received the few hundred crowns given by the Grand Duke, on the ground that the manuscripts were not genuine, because, if they were not, the inference is irresistible that the Count has forged them; and that, finally, the manuscripts which seem on all accounts to be Tasso's do not touch the interesting questions of his life, while all the rest relate to nothing else, and have a most suspicious completeness about them, comprising even several notes of the Princess Eleonora herself. Of this last party,—adverse to the genuineness of the manuscripts,—are now, I am told, all the men of letters in Florence: Niccolini, Capponi, Micali, Becchi, etc., though some of them, like Niccolini, were at first believers in their authenticity,  and gave certificates to that effect. I have talked with these four persons and some others about it, and they seem to have no doubt; and, on the other side, I have found only my American friend, Mr. Wilde, who seems to be quite as confident in the opposite opinion. It is a strange and curious matter, no doubt, and probably something like the Shakespeare papers, which Ireland pretended to have found, but managed by an older and much more wary and skilful person. In the evening we went to the Grand Duke's first ball of the season, given at the Pitti Palace. Nothing could be more unceremonious. It is the only occasion on which he sees strangers, or his own subjects, except for business or in private audiences in his cabinet. . . . . Any strangers who are presented to him by their ministers may come whenever a ball occurs, without further invitation, but Tuscans come only as they are specially invited. . . . . The entrance is by the back part of the palace, which being on the upper side of the hill, we came in on the second story. . . . . We passed through many long winding passages, and one or two fine antechambers, and then came into a large and very high hall, all white, and lighted with waxtapers built up in the form of obelisks, quite round the sides, and as bright as noonday. In this the company assembled . . . . . About half past 8 the Grand Duke and Duchess, with their Court, came in, all dressed simply . . . . . They passed round the room, and the strangers were presented to them, to the number, I should think, of sixty or seventy . . . . . The Grand Duchess is quite handsome, . . . . but she had very few words to say to anybody. . . . . The Grand Duke made some conversation with us, talked about the dress of ladies in America, about steamboats crossing the Atlantic, and seemed quite willing to be agreeable, though he was certainly awkward in his efforts, and preserved, both then and through the whole evening, the same anxious look I had observed yesterday. After the presentations were over the dancing began, and the Duke and Duchess danced nearly every time. A part of the company went into four or five small rooms near the principal one, and lounged or played cards; and between eleven and twelve a larger room was opened, with refreshments, but no regular supper. Soon after midnight the Court disappeared, and we were at home before one o'clock. Prince Maximilian of Saxony-one of whose daughters is now Duchess Dowager of Tuscany, and another was the first wife of the present Grand Duke——is now here with his pretty young wife, and his sensible, gifted daughter Amelia, to pass the winter. They were,  of course, at the ball, and as soon as the Court came into the room, crossed it to us, and shook hands with us, and greeted us as old friends, in the most good-natured manner. We, too, on our part, were very glad to see them, for they were very kind to us last winter. In the course of the evening I was presented to the Grand Duchess Dowager, and found her as intelligent and agreeable as she is always represented to be, and as all the children of Prince Max really are . . . . November 18.—. . . . I went by appointment this morning to pay my respects to Prince Max. I found him up four pair of stairs, and passed through, I should think, not less than twelve or fourteen rooms, that looked more like lumber-rooms than like apartments in a palace. But when I reached his suite, I found it richly furnished, as becomes the rank of one who is the father of a king,2 and might at this moment have been a king himself, if he had not voluntarily abdicated. He received me with his little chapeau-de-bras under his arm, which I never saw him without, and led me into the Princess Amelia's parlor, where she was waiting for us. There we sat down and talked about Saxony, which seemed to please the old Prince very much. . . . He talked well and kindly, and the Princess talked with esprit for half an hour, when, in courtly style, they rose and left the room. November 19.—. . . . This evening, as in duty bound, we went to pay our respects to the Saxon princesses. We found the Princess Louise waiting for us, looking very prettily, but most simply dressed; and soon afterwards the old Prince Max came in with the Princess Amelia. They were extremely kind, . . . . and talked pleasantly, after the fashion of princesses, about small matters that could compromise nobody . . . . . November 20.—. . . . In the evening we drove out to Fiesole, where Mr. Thompson of New York has been living two years, in a very nice, comfortable villa. . . . . . At table, I happened to sit next to the Princess Galitzin, and it is a long time since I have talked with any lady who had at once so much good sense and so much brilliancy in her conversation. After dinner, while I was near her, Bartolini gave us an interesting account of his residence at Elba, with Bonaparte, whose sculptor he was, and who was so kind to him, both then and previously, that he is still a thorough Bonapartist. One of the works Bonaparte ordered from him was a series of very large marble vases, in which to place lights, for the purpose of illuminating a terrace where he walked in the nights; and Bartolini was at Carrara, employed  about them, when Bonaparte made his escape and began the adventures of the famous Hundred Days. . . . . November 22.—I went this morning to see the Marquis Gino Capponi, a person of great distinction here by the antiquity of his family, by his fortune, and by his personal talents; but who, having the taint of liberalism upon him, is frowned upon by the Court, and lives in a sort of morose retirement. . . . . I found him living in a magnificent palace, one of the finest in this city of grand palazzos, and though nobody else occupies it but his aged mother, I found him in the true Italian fashion, perched up in the fourth story, and actually ascended an hundred and twelve steps to reach him. He is nearly fifty years old, a widower, and with no children except married daughters,—a tall, fine specimen of a noble Italian, with frank and striking manners, and altogether a picturesque and dignified appearance. His conversation was strong and bold, tinctured with politics throughout; and though he lives with men of letters like Niccolini and Becchi, and affects, and I dare say desires, to give himself up to literature, yet still his cabinet was full of newspapers, and all his talk redolent of public affairs. He was once in great favor with the Grand Duke, and used to be much consulted by him; but since the change in Court politics in 1830-32, the Marquis Capponi withdrew himself rather violently from the government, and is seen now only as a matter of ceremony at the palace. If, however, the time should come when liberal principles again shall prevail in Tuscany, I doubt not he would exercise a controlling influence in its affairs. He savors most strongly of the noble old stock of the Italians in Italy's best days, and while he is very frank, free, and winning in conversation, has all the air and bearing of one born to command.
In a letter to Mr. Prescott, written six weeks later, Mr. Ticknor thus sums up his experiences in Florence:—
. . . . The society I found still more changed, but not for the better. Of foreign, there was a good deal; but we cared little about it, for it was merely fashionable. Of Italian there was very little. The Marchioness Lenzoni——who, besides being the last descendant of one branch of the Medicis, owns and carefully preserves at Certaldo the house which Boccaccio possessed, and where he died—opened her saloon twice a week, and received the principal Florentine nobility, as well as the men of letters, and I met there Buonarotti, the head of Michel Angelo's family, and the head of the administration of  justice for Tuscany,—an eminent and respectable man, whom I was glad to visit in the great artist's house, and to find surrounded with his memorials, and possessing a good many of his characteristic manuscripts. I also knew there, and at their own houses, Micali, the author of ‘Italia avanti i Romani,’—a lively, courtly old gentleman, of good fortune, who values himself as much on his fashionable distinctions as on his considerable literary fame; Niccolini, the tragic writer,—a rather savage republican, who fancies himself to have sympathies with all Americans, and who is really an interesting person; as well as some others of less note, whose names you would not recognize. But I missed the old Countess d'albany's house. No such exists now in Florence; and what made it more striking, I was offered for lodging-rooms the very suite of apartments in her palazzo over that in which I used to visit her; the very suite, too, that was occupied by Alfieri, and where I passed a forenoon once in looking over his library and manuscripts. Au reste, she has not left any odor of sanctity behind her among the Florentines. In the latter part of her life she fell under the influence of a Frenchman by the name of Fabre,— you remember Dido's conjugium vocat, hoc proetexit nomine culpam,— and when she died she left him all her property; so the Palazzo Alfieri, as it is called, is turned into a lodging-house, and all Alfieri's books and manuscripts are carried off to the South of France, except a duplicate copy of his Tragedies, which Monsieur Fabre gave to the Laurentian Library. This annoys the Italians, and so much the more, because Alfieri, not in legal, but in poetical form, by a sonnet, had signified his wish that his library should be deposited in his native city of Asti; and I remember Tassi, who was his private secretary, told me, when he showed me the books, that at Mad. d'albany's death they would go to Asti. But it has turned out otherwise; and the Italians console themselves for their loss by abusing the wife of the Pretender; a satisfaction which, I assure you, some of the principal men in Florence enjoyed one night at Madame Lenzoni's in great perfection, at the end of a rather active and agreeable soiree. The want of society—intellectual, agreeable society—is very much felt by foreigners, not only in Florence, but throughout Italy. I have sometimes thought that it is even felt by the Italians themselves, especially when I have found persons of the first distinction—as far as rank and family are concerned—living in the most cheerless manner, sometimes in an upper story, and sometimes in a remote corner of one of their vast, gloomy, and uncomfortable palaces, without fires in winter, without carpets, and without convenient furniture; and  this, too, by no means the result of their poverty, but of indolent habits and perverted tastes, which, while they prevent their possessors from making an effort for better things, do not prevent them from feeling there are such things, and being partly ashamed that they do not enjoy them. No doubt the fortunes of the highest class have been impaired, even within the last twenty years, and men who could once receive in state are now obliged to sell their galleries and rent their palaces. This has been eminently the case at Venice and Bologna, and partly so at Florence. But this will not account for the state of social life throughout Italy; still less for the low state of intellectual culture, especially among Italian women.Being anxious to establish his family for the winter, Mr. Ticknor left Florence on the 1st of December, and arrived in Rome on the 5th. They took up their quarters that same day in a large and delightful apartment on the southwestern slope of the Monte Pincio, where they had a broad view of the city, and the sunshine to brighten them all day; and they had no reason to regret the choice during the five months they stayed there.