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Chapter 17:

To William H. Prescott.

Rome, November 24, 1856.
Dear William,—. . . . We have had delicious journeyings, fine weather without interruption. . . . . The consequence is that we have enjoyed ourselves very much. Indeed, I doubt whether a gayer party has crossed the Alps this year; and now we have been four days settled at Rome, at the Hotel des Iles Britannique. . . . . . We have had a little touch of cold weather, but the roses are still in full blow, and so are the cactuses, and other southern plants, in great numbers on the Pincio.

We had a week of full moon at Venice,—including the eclipse, and enjoyed our open gondola on the Grand Canal, which was filled with Bacarole choruses till after midnight nearly every night we were there, a thing to be had nowhere else in the world. At Verona I stopped a day, chiefly in order to see Count Frederic Thun, the civil ‘Viceroy’ of Lombardy and Venice, as Radetzky is the military; neither having the title, but all the power. . . . .

In Milan I found friends old and new, and occupation enough for the five days we stopped there. And then such a journey as we had for seven days to Florence; not a cloud in the sky, so to speak; no wind, no heat, no cold, no dust; the carriage always open, and breathing and living a pleasure in such an atmosphere. We paused at Piacenza, Pavia, Modena, and Bologna, so that the ladies could see everything they wanted to see, and drove down into Florence on the 2d of November through hedge-rows of myrtle and roses. There we stopped thirteen days. I had a good deal to do for the Library, in establishing a permanent agency, and ordering the purchase of books. But I went to see the old things that most interested me, in my three previous visits, and look forward to my fifth next spring, with added pleasure and interest. [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 [340] reached Florence, went off to the marriage of his eldest son with a very charming Saxon Princess. He is more changed than almost anybody I have yet seen. He stoops, and is very gray. But this can be easily accounted for. Before 1848 he thought himself a popular prince, and believed he belonged to the true party of progress. ,The rude awakening that he had from that delusion has much changed and disheartened him. Otherwise he is the same, not quick in perception, but intelligent, painstaking, honest, and absolutely beyond the suspicion of reproach, in what regards his private life and personal character. I do not envy him his high position. It is a very false one. He was very eager in his inquiries about the United States, and often acute in the questions he put to me . . . .

On looking over your letter to see if there is anything to answer, I notice with pleasure what you say of Humboldt. He is, indeed, a man worth knowing, and even more so now, than he was when I was first acquainted with him in 1817-19. His kindliness increases with his years. Every day of the fortnight I was in Berlin he did something for me, and every day I either saw him or had a note from him. The minuteness of his care would have been remarkable in a young man. One day, when, at our own lodgings, we expressed a doubt about going to Potsdam, he urged us so strongly to go, and said so much about the changes since we were last there, that we told him we would take the next day for it. The same evening there came a long note entitled ‘Plan strategique pour Potsdam,’ containing the minutest directions about going and returning, with a list of everything we ought to see there.2 On arriving, we found the librarian of the library of Frederic II. waiting to receive us, with a similar note of detailed directions in his hand, and pleased, from reverence for Humboldt, to show the whole, exactly in the order he had appointed, and then see us to the cars to go back. Once, as we were going along a walk where a cord had been stretched, to signify that the passage was forbidden, he removed it and told us to go through. I hesitated, and objected on account of the prohibition. ‘I should like,’ he replied, ‘to see anybody, in Potsdam or Berlin, who will stop me when I have these crooked lines that everybody knows’—taking out Humboldt's note—‘telling me to go on.’

Just so it was when I dined with the King, in consequence of a letter to him from the King of Saxony. It was a large dinner in honor of the arrival of the Duke of Baden, who was married three [341] days afterwards to the beautiful and only niece of the King. Humboldt, as you know, dines with the King every day, and sits in the strangers place of honor, opposite to him at a narrow table. He had me introduced by the proper person to all the family, and introduced me, himself, to everybody else that I could possibly desire to know, and more than I can now remember; intimated—I have no doubt—to the King that he would like to have him talk to me,—for he did it, a long time after dinner,—and placed me at table opposite to the bride, as he said, that I might see how handsome she was, and near himself, who, like many men of extreme age, eats very largely, yet still talked all the time, as if he were doing nothing else. He had the great collections in the arts opened to us in the most thorough manner; met us at Rauch's studio, at the time when he knew Rauch had invited us to be there,3 and so on, and so on, seeming to care for us constantly. I do not believe there is another man in Europe who would have taken such trouble for a person of so little consequence, and from whom he could expect only gratitude.

November 27.—We have been here a week, and I have seen a good many of the old places and monuments. They all seem natural; some fresh, as if I had seen them yesterday, particularly St. Peter's and the Pantheon. Yesterday afternoon, the weather being very fine, we went to the top of the Capitol and looked at the grand panorama, the septem dominos montes, the old Alban Hills, the Sabine, the remote snow-capped Apennines, and then the whole modern city, crowded at our feet. It was such a sight as can never be seen too often, and I was glad to find that I knew nearly everything by heart. I think I shall enjoy Rome very much, because I shall go to see only the things I want to. Having seen everything twice before with care, I regard myself as emeritus.

If at any time you want to know what we are doing, you have only to stop and see Lizzie a moment. She always has the last news, and will be only too happy to tell them, or read them, in exchange for the great pleasure a little visit from you will giveher. . . . .

I am very glad to hear that your Robertson, expurgatus et emendatus, is so near the confines of day. I only wish it were all your work instead of a part; for respectable as the old, philosophical Edinburgh clergyman was, he can never be made fit to fill the gap between ‘Ferdinand and Isabella’ and ‘Philip II.’ . . . . Ma basta.

Yours always,


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,4 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',5 where there is [343] of course much of a French tone, and where, amidst all the luxury of Paris, and in grand old tapestried halls, such as Paris cannot show, you find the most simple and unpretending ways; the children and their playthings, in the third and fourth generation, mixed up with a stray cardinal or two, or a couple of foreign ambassadors and their wives, as I witnessed the last time I was there. . . . .

Of the French, except the personnel of the Embassy, . . . . I know hardly anybody that I care to see often . . . . But we are promised Ampere, who comes to Rome as often as he can, and generally writes something good about it afterwards. Indeed, in consequence of his visit last year, he has lately published some remarks about the period of decay in the Roman Empire, which, by an intended ricochet, hits the present Emperor so hard that, as his Ambassador said to me the other night, speaking of Ampere, ‘on l'a terriblement gronde,’ meaning that the imperial newspapers had come down very hard upon him.

But he will be well received at the Embassy here notwithstanding, he is so agreeable.6 You must recollect him in Boston, full of esprit, and with vast stores of knowledge, partly inherited as it were from his remarkable father, but chiefly acquired by hard work and very extensive travels. He is a member of two classes of the Institute, and one of the few very popular men of letters now in Paris.

The Germans are better off, as they always are in Rome, where they have loved to come ever since their first irruption, fourteen centuries and more ago. The ablest man I meet is, I suppose, Count Colloredo, the Austrian Ambassador, living in great state and luxury in the vast old Palazzo di Venezia. He is a spare man, looking much like a Yankee, quick and eager in all his motions, yet unmistakably a grand-seigneur, both by the dignity and by the attentive politeness of his manners. We knew him very well twenty years ago, just beginning his career as Austrian Minister at Dresden with auguries of great success, [344] which have been fully justified; for he satisfied his government during five years of trouble and anxiety in England, including the Russian war, and has been sent here now,—much to his own satisfaction,—on account of the preponderating influence of France. His wife—whom we also knew in Dresden, though he was not then married to her—is a Polish lady, very rich, and by her talent fit to do half the work of his Embassy, any day. Both are very agreeable, courtly people, who have the fame of giving the best dinners that are given in Italy. I have been at one which was given to Count Goyon, the French Commander, on his first arrival here. It was quite beyond any scale I have for measuring such things, but it struck me as more simple in its arrangements and compounds than I expected. . . . .

On our arrival we found, in the hotel where we live, Baron Schack, who wrote the remarkable book you know of on the Spanish Drama, and who has an extraordinary knowledge of Spanish literature, and of everything Spanish, having lived in Spain two or three years, and worked there like a dog.7 I have had great comfort in him, the more, because, being in very bad health and hardly able to go out at all, he has been glad to have me sit with him, whenever I could find half an hour for it. He is a man of good fortune, but as simple-hearted and unsophisticated a mere German scholar as I have ever known, reading nearly all languages worth it, and talking several, especially English, very well. . . . .

Gregorovius, too, is here, whose remarkable book on Corsica was not only translated into English, but had the honor of a separate translation in the United States. He has been employed the last four years on a history of Rome for the eleven centuries and more that elapsed between its first occupation by the barbarians and its capture by the Constable Bourbon; a well-limited period, taking in what may most fairly be called the Middle Ages. He assigns six years more to his most difficult task, living here meanwhile in straightened circumstances, but with a very bright, cheerful nature, that seems to gild his dark hours as they move on . . . . . I said at the beginning of my letter that Rome is a good place to live in permanently . . . . . Three or four hours every day are spent in going about, often to drive in delicious weather—the roses are in blow, and the camellias just coming out—over the Campagna in an open carriage, with grand ranges of aqueducts on each side, and before us the Alban and Sabine hills. . . . . More often we go to see what you saw in your time and I in mine, but to which I am surprised to find additions of interest much beyond what I expected. [345]

Some of us lately saw the remains of the Wall of Servius Tullius, recently dug out, just where Dionysius Halicarnassus said it would be found, if they would remove the houses standing over it in his time. A few days ago we took a learned young German, who has been two years here looking up antiquities in the pay of the Prussian government, and went with him over the Forum and the adjacent localities. A great deal has been excavated, and much is now certain and settled that was in fierce contest when I went over the same ground with Bunsen twenty years ago. . . . .

Going outside of the city there are two marvellous things to see that were not to be seen in our time. One is the Appian Way,—regina viarum,—which has been opened, quite out to Albano, and its tombs uncovered farther than we have yet driven . . . . . The other is the Catacombs, where a great deal of work has lately been done, and very extraordinary remains of the early Christians and their art discovered. We passed two hours in one the other day under the leading and lecturing of de Rossi, a learned and enthusiastic man, who has made many of the excavations and will publish a book about them. Whewell was of the party, and we were all greatly surprised at what we saw. . . . .

As I am in the category of changes in Rome, I will give you another class of them,—I mean those that relate to ecclesiastical affairs and manners. The manners of the higher clergy, and probably of all classes of the clergy, are become more staid; perhaps their characters are improved, for I hear fewer stories to their discredit. The first time I was invited to the Borgheses' in 1836, was on a Sunday evening, and the first thing I saw when I entered was seven Cardinals, four at one table, three at another, with their red skull-caps and pieds de perdrix, playing at cards. Similar exhibitions I witnessed all the season through, there and elsewhere. But this year I have not seen a single Cardinal at a card-table. The Pope is known to disapprove it, and that is enough . . . . . Indeed, though ecclesiastics of all the higher ranks go into fashionable society still, and even to balls, their numbers are smaller, and they go early and leave soon. The Pope's favor can hardly be had else; for however much—the people generally may dislike him,—or rather his ministers,—those near his person are sincerely attached to him, and all admit him to be a man of irreproachable character, and to be striving above everything else, by his own strict observances and by corresponding requirements of others, to advance the Catholic religion.

We have every way an agreeable time here; generally a merry one. [346] Pleasant occupations are abundant, and pleasant people to be found everywhere in the salons and at the dinner-tables. Anna the elder, having once gone thoroughly through all the phases and fashions of Roman society, has declined it this time . . . . . Anna the younger, passing every forenoon in an atelier at landscape-painting, and the rest of the day in sight-seeing, began the season with the same purpose of abstinence; but, since the Carnival came in, she has thawed out a little, and been to sundry balls and parties, which have amused her a good deal. I have worked a good deal, more than I expected to, and have found more than I anticipated in the Libraries, which seem to expand as I advance. . . .

February 17.—. . . . . We are in the midst of the Carnival, with mild, delicious, clear weather, that makes everything gay, carries everybody into the Corso in open caleches, and fills the Villa Borghese with blue violets, and the Villa Pamphili with roses and camellias. We have a balcony in the Corso, and grow as crazy as the crowd below us. Ristori is acting, and we have a box at the theatre. The upper society is as active as the lower, mingling with it on even terms all the afternoons, and setting up for itself with dinners and balls in the evenings. . . . . It is all very strange, often a mad scene. I think I never saw so much of it before, or was so much with the people that carry it on. Certainly I never watched it so carefully, or knew so much about it, as I do now.8 . . . .

I will fill up my little space with an account of a dinner yesterday, unlike any I have seen here.9 It was at the Duc de Rignano's, a statesman who was in poor Rossi's excellent cabinet, and one of the ablest and most respectable men in Rome. He lives with great luxury in his palace on the declivity of the Capitol, and had at his table yesterday the President of the French Academy here, a professor from the Sapienza, de la Rive, Ampere, Visconti, Pentland,—who wrote the Murray on Rome, and is more than half an Italian,—the Duc de Sermoneta,10—who is accounted the pleasantest man in society here, [347] and who has a great deal of literary cultivation,—with two or three members of the family, including the Duchess, who was the only lady at table. The service was silver, as in most great Roman houses, and the dinner recherche, after the Paris fashion. But it was really a dinner for talk, and in this particular was very brilliant.

The curious circumstance about it, however, was, that at the end of the regular two hours, we went into the salon for coffee, and there continued the conversation on French politics, Italian literature, etc., near two hours more, with cigars, to the full content of the Duchess, —a Piombino,—who enjoyed it very much, talk, cigars, and all. Ampere, de la Rive, and Sermoneta-especially the first and the last—were admirable. I have not been present at so agreeable and brilliant a dinner in Europe. Don't you think the Italians are improving?

On looking over your letter, as is my fashion when I am closing an answer, I find two things that surprise me. Who told you that I ‘outwatch the bear,’ and that I ‘keep a diary’? Both are mistakes. I have led a more regular life as to bedtimes for the last eight months than I do at home; and as for journal, I do not even write many letters, though when I do, as you see, they are apt to be long ones. However, there is an end to everything human. When we leave Rome, we shall have so much travelling to do, that I think letters on my part will be rarer than ever . . . . . But my paper is full. Are you not glad? Love to Susan, and a great deal of it, and to Elizabeth.11 We think and talk a great deal of you, and long to see you.

Always yours,

G. T.

To Count Adolphe de Circourt.

Naples, March 27, 1857.
my dear Count Circourt,—I received in Rome your very kind letter, enclosing one for Count Goyon, and your little note introducing Mrs. Gaskell and her two daughters . . . . . We enjoyed very much our acquaintance with the de la Rives,—excellent people, full of intelligence, and the most kindly natures. We were a good deal together, and parted from them with no little regret . . . . . With Visconti, who is in all societies, as he always has been, we went to the excavations he is superintending at Ostia, and to the Lateran Museum, which he is arranging, and found him full of knowledge, inherited and acquired. . . . . [348]

Let me add that I visited the Duchess de Blacas, and was much touched with her situation and appearance,—a charming person, the resources of whose character seem to be brought out by the great calamity of her husband's illness. Pray offer my homage to the Duchess de Rauzan, and tell her how much I was gratified by my little visit to her daughter, and how sincerely I sympathized with the misfortune that brought her to Rome. . . . .

The most spirituel of the persons I knew was the Duc de Sermoneta, who would be distinguished anywhere for his taste, knowledge, acuteness, and wit. But others were not wanting.

Cardinal Antonelli, whom I visited at the Vatican, and who was to be found in all societies, struck me as an accomplished person, with winning manners, but with much more the air of the world than that of the church. He was always agreeable to me, and I think agreeable to nearly everybody in common intercourse. . . . . He is the whole government. The Pope occupies himself very sincerely and earnestly with the spiritual condition of the church. Cardinal Antonelli does all the rest. . . .

It is difficult, however, to see how the Roman government can get on at all, without a man of vigor and ability, like Cardinal Antonelli, at its head. Its finances are much embarrassed, and yet no jot of its outlay can be spared, for its employes are often unpaid, and its inevitable expenses are increasing, though the fact is, as much as possible, covered up and concealed. The French troops are a grievous burden and dishonor, but no reasonable person would ask to have them taken away, so important are they to the maintenance of order. The whole government, therefore, is carried on in the boldest, firmest manner, as if everything were safe, sure, and easy, and nothing else, it seems to me, could permit it to be carried on at all. The question is, how long such a state of things can last. Under ordinary circumstances, it could hardly have lasted as long as it has already. But so much of Europe is in a similar condition,—if not in one so bad,—there is such a general moral decay, demanding everywhere military repression and great vigor, that the common fate seems to be a common bond, holding all together, lest the whole should break up in one and the same convulsion. For what is the condition of Spain, or even Austria,—both really bankrupt and dishonored,—and how stands your own France, with its vast resources and yet unspent energies, leaning on the most extravagant financial projects that have been imagined since the days of Law? Indeed, it seems to me that the financial question is the great question next to be solved, and that its solution [349] will shake Europe more than is now anticipated. There is no government that is not running in debt every year, merely to maintain social order, and to this inevitable course there can be but one inevitable termination. Credit must still be pushed, but must at last fail, and then revolution of some sort seems inevitable; but I cannot imagine that anything beneficent should come in its train.

But you would rather I should talk to you about the United States than about Europe, which you understand so much better than I do. Indeed, I should hardly have spoken even about Rome, if you had not desired it, and when I turn to America I cannot speak with the details and confidence I should if I were at home. But I am, perhaps, more cool than I should be if I were in the midst of the domestic discussion, though certainly I have less connaissance de causes. I do not, indeed, see far ahead.

Mr. Buchanan has made his Cabinet, and it is as good and conservative a cabinet as could have been expected from his position. . . . . The country, too, is quiet, and the new government will begin without a fierce or indiscriminate opposition to its measures. But there are bad elements at work under the surface. At the South a large body of the slaveholders are desperate, and openly avow a detennination to break up the Union . . . . . At the North everything is as tranquil at this moment as it is at the South, or even more so. But not a few persons in New England, besides the open Abolitionists, are in favor of breaking up the Union, . . . . but none except the Abolitionists honestly avowing their purposes.

That the South will be indiscreet enough, pushed on by its fanatics, to give ground, either sufficient or insufficient, to these ambitious men of the North to make a permanent Northern party, is a question that will soon be settled. I think it likely they will, and that we shall have a sectional excitement within two years fiercer than the one that preceded the late Presidential election . . . . . That any degree of wisdom and integrity can make Mr. Buchanan's administration of the country other than dangerous to our peace, both domestic and foreign, I do not believe.

To W. H. Prescott.

Florence, May 8, 1857.
my dear William,—I have to thank you for two most agreeable mementos of kindness; one a letter without date, written, I think, in March, the other a note dated April 4, touching my new honors as [350] a grandpapa. They were both most welcome. The only thing I do not like in what I hear about you, or what you tell me of yourself, is your recent persecution by headaches. Pray be careful. They were diminishing, I am glad to know, at the last dates. But the brain is an important part of many people,—by no means of all, though all may be under the delusion that it is,—and to nobody is it of more importance than to such as you. . . . . Besides, I cannot afford to have anything untoward happen to you; it interferes too much with my selfishness and my private well-being.

I have attended to your little commissions with great pleasure, and shall have equal pleasure in attending to any others you may give me. I am not only in such cases working for a friend, but for myself and for a multitude of outside barbarians . . . .

We left Rome about the middle of March, after having passed a pleasanter winter there than any I have ever passed in Europe. . . . . A fortnight in Naples was much less satisfactory. The city itself is anything but agreeable; but the excursions are charming, and the Museo Borbonico, containing in numberless rooms the spoils of Herculaneum and Pompeii, could be agreeably visited daily for almost any length of time, going occasionally to see the spots from which its treasures came.

Another fortnight divided between Sorrento and drives to Amalfi, Salerno, Paestum, etc., was delicious; especially eight quiet days spent in the full burst of spring at Sorrento, with the most beautiful bay in the world before our windows, Vesuvius in front, and the Mediterranean washing the foundations of the terrace on which our parlor opened. The mornings that we passed in the orange groves there, where the trees were in luxuriant fruit, and the afternoons we gave to going on donkeys over the precipitous hills, and once to boating on the still waters, we shall never forget. Those gardens, Hesperian fables true,—if true, there only,—where the ladies sketched, and ate the delicious fruit as it fell from the trees,—left nothing to desire. Next after Rome, we have undoubtedly regretted Sorrento. But enough of this.

Thank Susan for all her kindness to Lizzie, of which Lizzie has written often, and thank her for the kind thoughts she sends us about one so dear to us, and which we value from her as we should from few. You see I write in haste, by my manuscript. I have no more such leisure as I had in Rome, dear old Rome; but such as I have, leisure and everything else, I give unto you.

G. T.


To William W. Greenough, Boston.

Turin, May 22, 1857.
my dear Greenough,—I am indebted to you for two most agreeable letters, and I do not suppose I shall ever pay you. But honesty requires me to confess what I owe, and give you such a poor dividend as I can out of my insolvency. Let me add to this unhappy confession, that I hope you will let me hear from you again, and that you will tell me more about the Library; concerning which I know a good deal less than I want to, nobody having intimated to me what sort of a building our structure in Boylston Street turns out to be, ugly or good looking, suited to its purpose or inconvenient; or whether the books that have arrived are well bound, and, from their contents and character, of the classes that it is desirable should early be put on our shelves, so as to satisfy the public wants and make a satisfactory impression and appearance . . . .

I need not tell you that we passed a pleasant winter in Rome. It was the pleasantest of the eight I have spent in Europe. I took things very easy, went where I liked, and stayed at home when I had a mind to, and never overworked myself with sight-seeing. The climate, indeed, I found debilitating,—as do nearly all strangers,— and I felt a good deal fatigued when I left the city; but I enjoyed, perhaps in consequence of this, eight days of delicious rest at Sorrento soon afterwards, more than I ever enjoyed any days of mere repose in my life. But then I was never in such a delicious place before, with such luxurious quarters, to add to its peculiar agrements. Our drives about all that part of the kingdom, too, not merely those in the immediate neighborhood of Naples, but those to Salerno and Amalfi, and once a little boating, left nothing to desire, taken as they were in the rich and beautiful spring, season; the orange groves, where we lounged away sundry forenoons, in full fruit, and the hills, that we climbed on donkeys, covered with vines bursting forth in all their early luxuriance.

Since that time-we arrived in Naples March 20, and left it April 18—we have spent a few days in Rome,—from which we turned our faces with great regret,—and a fortnight in Florence, where I did a good deal of work for the Library, and then came on to Genoa by Pisa, Spezia, and the picturesque Corniche road; and from Genoa by the magnificent government railroad, passing through a tunnel almost exactly two miles long, lined and arched with brick from one end to the other. We arrived here day before yesterday, [352] and already I notice how much the city is altered, enlarged, and improved since I last saw it. Everything, indeed, that I have seen of the kingdom from Spezia hither is full of a vitality and busy energy which were not to be seen twenty years ago, and which are not to be found elsewhere in Italy now.

I have been here less than two days, and of course have seen very few people; but everything I have seen in society has been as strongly marked with the changes and revolutions of the period since I was last here, as the city and its streets. The first evening—having arrived at noon—I went to see the Marquis Arconati and his very remarkable wife. When I knew them in 1835-38 at their castle near Brussels, in Heidelberg, and in Paris, they were living on the income of their great estates in Belgium. . . . . Now all his estates have been restored to him, and he has, since 1849, left the dominions of Austria and established himself here, where he enjoys, amidst great splendor, the consideration and influence which his personal character and his high position naturally give him. Several deputies were in his salon, . . . . and one or two men of letters, attracted there chiefly, I think, by Mad. Arconati, who is everywhere regarded as one of the most intellectual women of her time, but one whose remarkable powers are rendered graceful and charming by a gentleness and modesty rarely found even in those who have only a tithe of her resources. . . . .

Yesterday I had another phasis of the changes of the times. I dined with Count Cavour, the most distinguished of all Italian statesmen at this moment, and the man who, since 1852, has been doing so much to infuse new life into Sardinia. I was surprised to find him so young, only forty-seven, and not looking above forty; a round, pleasant-faced gentleman, who, to judge from his countenance and manner, has not a care in the world. His conversation is such as you might expect from his appearance, lively and agreeable; his views of everything on which he talked strikingly broad, but not, I think, always very exactly defined; and his general air natural but not impressive. His eye is very quick; it reminded me of Lord Melbourne's, which was the most vigilant I ever saw. Nothing seemed to escape the Italian Premier, and I think he not only saw but heard more than anybody else in the room. Indeed, though there was a good wide table between us, I am satisfied that he heard what my next neighbor, the Minister of the Interior, said to me, notwithstanding his tones were so low that I was obliged to be attentive to catch his words. I was introduced to a good many persons, whose names I [353] do not remember, and some that I do, all, however, announced as remarkable for something. One that I noticed particularly was Cibrario, formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs; another was the principal secretary, on whom Cavour depends for work he cannot do himself. . . . . But as I was told, it was a dinner of intellectual men, such as Count Cavour likes to give, and therefore such as marks a great change in the tastes and character of those who govern the affairs of the kingdom.

In the evening I went to a palazzo from which power has departed,—that, I mean, of the Balbos,—in order to pay my due respects to the widow of Count Cesare, who was among my friends in both my other visits to Europe, and at one time filled the place now filled by Cavour. But the rich old halls, in which I once had a most gay and luxurious dinner, looked very grave and sad. Everything was respectable, but the change was very great. All five of his sons were in one of the national battles, where their father stood by the side of the King, and afterwards often said it was the proudest hour of his life. One son was afterwards killed in the battle of Novara. They were all evidently pleased to have a friend of their father, of whom they knew something, come to see them for his sake, and I was glad of it. I have been this morning to see a good statue of him, erected in the public promenade; but his works, historical and political, often reprinted, are his best monument.

We shall stay here two or three days more, and then go to Paris, where I hope to arrive about June 1st, and where, or in London, I shall hope to hear from you. . . . .

Yours always,

Mr. Ticknor passed the month of June in Paris, and, although it was the season when French society was scattered, he saw many of his old friends. He also did a great deal of work for the Library in those thirty days.

There are, however, no letters from him describing the pleasures which really marked this visit, because at the end of the first fortnight a great alarm was brought in the letters from home, which contained news of the sudden and dangerous illness of Mrs. Dexter. For a day or two the anxiety was distressing, and nothing could be thought of but rapid preparations for returning to America. Better accounts soon followed, but the pleasant [354] days were almost put out of mind, and no history of them was written out. One short letter to Mr. Prescott is dated after the ill news came.

Paris, Thursday Morning, June 18, 1857.
Dear William,—I thank you, I thank you, I thank you a thousand times for your thoughtful kindness in sending me your letter about my darling child, and getting Dr. Storer's note for me. The news was dreadfully unexpected, and it needed all the affection of our friends to soften it to us. . . . . Your tender words were most welcome to us, and your kindness to dear Lizzie what we shall never forget. You and Susan have been friends indeed, as you always are; God bless you for it.

The two Annas and H. G. embark from Havre in the Arago on the 30th. It is the earliest chance. . . . . I must go to England instantly after I have seen them off, to finish my business there,—of which there is more than I now like to undertake, and more than I have courage to do. But it is the finale, and a good deal depends upon it, and I shall do it. I refer to the Library. . . .

But I have no time to write more, nor could I write upon any other subject than the one that fills this poor note, for I have nothing else in my thoughts, though I am busy with things and people all day long. Your letter came evening before last (Tuesday). I have read it a dozen times, and thanked you for it many more times than I have read it. Farewell. . . . .

Yours always,

When the party first reached Paris the Duc de Broglie was still in town, and also Madame de Stael, whom Mr. Ticknor had never seen, but who received him warmly, and in whom he took a great interest, as the widow of Auguste de Stael,12 with whom he had been so intimate during his first youthful visit in France. These friends, with their delightful coterie,—Doudan, Villemain, Madame de Ste. Aulaire, M. and Mad. d'haussonville, and others of the Duc de Broglie's family,—renewed the old associations, and there were pleasant dinners in the Faubourg St. Germain, [355] and a breakfast at Mr. Ticknor's hotel. Puibusque, Ternaux-Compans, Mignet, came to find their former friend, and de Tocqueville came repeatedly, during a few days he was in town, and dined once with Mr. Ticknor. Ten days after his arrival in Paris the Count and Countess de Circourt returned, from a journey, to their pretty country-place at La Celle St. Cloud, and there Madame de Circourt, who was then a suffering invalid, received the Ticknors at a charming breakfast alfresco, on a lovely summer day. Count Circourt was constantly a delightful companion in town, breakfasting and dining in the Place Vendome, dropping in for interesting talk, and showing hearty sympathy when the bad news came from America.

M. Guizot invited Mr. Ticknor to Val Richer, where he went and had two most agreeable days; and he afterwards went for a day or two to Gurcy, the country-place of M. d'haussonville, where he once more saw the Due de Broglie.

In a letter to Count Circourt, written a few years later, after the death of Mad. de Circourt, and immediately on receiving news of the death of the Duchesse de Rauzan, Mr. Ticknor sketches his experience in his four visits to Paris:—

As you say truly, the traditions, even, of that old society which once made Paris so charming are already among the things of the past. Its last relics lie buried with Madame de Circourt and Madame de Rauzan. What I saw of it was in 1817, in the salon of the dying Madame de Stael, in that of Madame de Chateaubriand and Madame Constant; then, in 1818 and 1819, in the more brilliant salons of the Duchesse de Duras and the Duchesse de Broglie, and of the Comatesse de Ste. Aulaire, not forgetting the Saturday evenings at the palace, where the Duchesse de Duras received, with inimitable graciousness and dignity, on behalf of the King, as wife of the first Gentleman of the Bedchamber; and finally in the winter of 1837-38, which we had the pleasure of passing in Paris, when the Duchesse de Broglie and Madame de Rauzan shared with Madame de Circourt the inheritance they had received from their mothers, and Guizot and Thiers and Mole had salons with very little of the old feminine grace and gentleness in them.

But this was the last that I saw of what remained from the old French salons. When we were in Paris in 1857, the Duchesse de [356] Rauzan was there with her charming daughter, the Duchesse de Blacas; but it was the summer season, Madame de Circourt was ill, and, though at the Duc de Broglie's and at Thiers' and at Mad. d'haussonville's—both in town and at Gurcy—I met most agreeable people, yet it was plain that all was changed. It was another atmosphere. Old times were forgotten; the old manners gone. And what is to come in their place? Paris is externally the most magnificent capital in Europe, and is becoming daily more brilliant and attractive. But where are the old salons,—their grace, their charming and peculiar wit, their conversation that impressed its character upon the language itself, and made it, in many respects, what it is?

Four weeks passed away in this, Mr. Ticknor's last visit to Paris, and on the 29th of June the whole party travelled to Havre, and all went on board the American steamer Arago, which was to touch at Southampton on its way to New York. The last letters from home had brought good accounts of Mrs. Dexter's recovery, and a package received at Southampton confirmed these good reports. Mr. Ticknor parted there from his wife and daughter, and when they sailed for America he went to London to complete the work he had undertaken.

He was there the guest of Mr.Twisleton and Mrs. Twisleton, who were at home in their pretty house at Rutland Gate, and his time was filled, as in the previous year, with a perpetual contrast of really arduous and earnest work with the excitement of a most stimulating intellectual society in every form. All this is described in his daily letters to Mrs. Ticknor.

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

2 He took the same pains to enable Mr. Ticknor to see to advantage his brother, William von Humboldt's, place at Tegel.

3 Taking with him the lately arrived folio of the ‘United States Expedition to Japan,’ which he had just learned that Mr. Ticknor had not yet seen.

4 Dowager-Queen of Spain.

5 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.

6 In the margin of this letter Mr. Ticknor wrote: ‘Feb. 15. Ampere has been here a fortnight, and is extremely agreeable. The first place in which I met him, the day of his arrival, was that Embassy. But he goes everywhere.’

7 See ante, p. 250.

8 In 1837 the amusements of the Carnival were prohibited from fear of cholera. In 1818 they were free from the noisy and boisterous manners of foreigners, and Mr. Ticknor remarked on the difference, saying that then, instead of the present indiscriminate pelting with cruel plaster confetti, nothing but bouquets and bonbons were thrown, and those only as signs of recognition despite the mask and disguise.

9 Mr. Ticknor dined also during the winter at the French and Sardinian Embassies', and at Prince Borghese's, as well as at other tables, both Roman and foreign.

10 Marchese Gaetano of the earlier visit. See ante, p. 70.

11 Mrs. James Lawrence, daughter of Mr. Prescott.

12 Of Madame de Stael, nee Vernet, Baron Bunsen says in a letter, printed in his Memoirs: ‘The combined impression made by her manner, countenance, and conversation, prepares one to believe, and even to guess, at all the great and good qualities attributed to her.’

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