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contained it than if it did not contain it.

I am sure that you Avill not suspect me of putting myself
affectedly in opposition to common opinion. You know
that I quite distrusted what I had heard of the beauty of
some places which, I have confessed to you, have much ex-
ceeded my hopes ; I was therefore beginning to expect that
Rome would as much surpass my moderate anticipations
as other places have done, and should have been delighted
to tell you how wrong I had been in my first misgivings. In
some points indeed I may yet be wrong. The only point
on which I feel qualified at present to speak with some
confidence is architectural Rome, and, in order that you
may believe my report, I am very glad that, in writing to
you from Genoa, I had an opportunity of proving my
candour by my praises of buildings which contradicted all
my architectural prejudices.

After breakfast on Friday I went out, not knowing where
I was going, and almost the first building I passed was a
circular edifice of brick, with a mean fagade, which I went by
without giving it more than a glance. It struck me, how-
ever, when I had passed it, that it might be the Pantheon,
for it certainly was, as Gertrude would say, " a little big." I
was right in my guess ; I went some way further, and was
for several minutes approaching a good-sized church, with-
out anything in its appearance to attract attention ; but at
last came to a colonnade, with two fountains and an obelisk,
and I asked Mr. Monsell, who went with me — as he told
Mr. de Vere, to witness my enthusiasm — if that was
St. Peter's ? Have you ever stepped down a step without
being prepared for it ? Probably you have. But have you
ever stepped down four or five steps at once in such a way ?


If not you cannot understand quite the unexpectedness of
the " drop " from my very moderate expectations to the
reality. It is commonly enough said that St. Peter's does
not look as large as it is, and even that it does not look as
large as our St. Paul's. I assure you that it does not look
one quarter as large as St. Paul's ; and that this is owing,
not, as the bepraisers of Rome say, to its superior beauty of
proportion, but to its vast architectural inferiority. Like
Genoa, Rome has overthrown another of my theories, which
was that viass was the first condition of architectural effect,
and that, whenever this exists eminently, the result will be
a certain amount of dignity. I now see that ten millions
of pounds sterling (the cost of building St. Peter's) may be
expended to little othereffect than that of disproving this pro-
position. It is the same with the interior. You find how
large it is by the time it takes to walk from one end to the
other, or by being told that a pen in the hand of an apostle
in the dome is seven feet long, or that the towers in West-
minster Abbey might stand under the arch of the nave ; but
artistic greatness is absent, and one hears these brags
of material bigness with a feeling of contempt, which
is deepened instead of being removed when the enormous
costliness of the marbles of which the whole interior is con-
structed becomes apparent. The total effect of the interior
is, indeed, decidedly "handsome": there is nothing very
gross except the sculpture, and that is scarcely so bad as that
in Westminster Abbey ; and there is a general feelingof space
and convenience, very much like that of a great metro-
politan railway hall. This is the utmost I can at present
say in praise of St Peter's. Everybody tells me that Rome
and everything in it " grows upon you " so much. It is
the quality of everything bad " to grow upon you," if
you are long in its company and do not take care. But
the modern architecture of Rome — including St. John
Lateran and the rest — shall not grow upon me, if I can
help it.

Rome, as you know, is full of large and handsome private
palaces. These, if they had all been crowded together to
make one small town, like Genoa, would have had an im-
pressive effect. But they do not stand together, and the
dirty little streets by which they are connected are upon
the whole a more effective part of Rome — especially to the
nose — than its palaces. There is only one commonly good


street, the Corso, and that is scarcely as good as the Rue
St. Honor6. Of great towns, Rome is certainly the meanest
I have yet seen. The ruins of Imperial Rome are
scarcely better worth seeing than the modern city. As far
as they are properly architectural they are small and unim-
pressive, and where they excel by size it is by size only. I
do not see why Messrs. Cubitt or any other London builders
should not have built the baths of Caracalla or the Coliseum,
with the help of 30,000 Jew navvies. The first impression
given by these ruins is enormous. The baths, even far more
than the Coliseum, astonish you by walls, the mere broken
fragments of which, rolled down into the field, stand about
like huge brick kilns. But a little thought soon disperses
one's admiration, and leaves nothing but horror at the slave
power which could waste labour at this rate, and satisfac-
tion that the boast of " Eternity," which was implied by
buildings on this scale, was so soon to be made ridiculous.

There is only one other point on which I will speak par-
ticularly at present, — for in all doubtful things I will leave
Rome to " grow upon me," if I can — and that is the absence
of beauty in the people. Since I came to Rome, I have seen
but one pretty woman, — the Marchesa Pallavicino. She
has the reputation of being the most beautiful woman at
present in Rome. She is certainly very beautiful — but her
beauty is quite English — fair and small in feature, and
singularly like Mrs. Vaughan in general expression.

The men have nearly always a sinister look, which would
ruin any beauty of form, if they had it. You must re-
member, however, that I am speaking chiefly from what I
have seen in the streets and churches. I have been to one
" reception," but the company was chiefly English. I am
told there is much beauty among the Roman aristocracy.
But I scarcely believe anything now that I am told about
Rome : there is what seems to me so insane a determina-
tion in every one I have met to praise Rome and anything
Roman, without any apparent reference to the facts of the
case. Pray excuse all my erasures : the heat makes my mind
languid, and I write slipshod sometimes. Aubrey de Vere
is a delightful companion. If anyone could make me dis-
believe my eyes about Rome it would be he. He has half
promised to go to Naples with me after Easter — which is
the proper time for going there. It is too cold, so far south,^
at present ; north and south here have nothing to do with



climate. Nice, they tell me, is warmer than Palermo, and
Mentone much warmer than Nice !

Believe me, my dear Mrs. Jackson,

Ever most truly yours,
Coventry Patmore.

Hotel de la Minerva.
March 24th, 1864.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson.

Your very welcome letter reached me yesterday. I
am glad you were amused by my " pencillings by the way."
I fear whatever I write to you from Rome will be very dull.
The climate oppresses me extremely, so that I find it a
labour, very often, to make any mental or bodily exertion.
The warm, damp Sirocco, which has been the prevailing
wind since I came here, is an invisible poison killing the
inmost life. I feel it much more than most people do ; but
even the Romans are reduced to mere languor by it, and
comfort themselves with quinine while it lasts. I believe
we agree about the east wind in England, but the Roman
Sirocco is far worse in an opposite way. When I rise in
the morning the air looks so brilliant and breathes in at the
window so pleasantly that to sit at home is impossible, and
to take a carriage seems effeminate. But if I walk a mile,
it is all over with me for the day. Twenty miles in the
hottest July day in England would not fatigue me half as
much as one mile does on these bright, breezy, poisonous
mornings in Rome. It is so, more or less, with every one.
The consequence is that nobody walks in Rome. The poorest
people, if they have to go from one end of the Corso to the
other, will take a cab — which will carry you anywhere for
seven pence halfpenny, unless the Sirocco happens to be too
much for the horse, who not unfrequently stops at the
slightest rise of the ground in a fainting condition, and the
" fare " has to get out and walk. You must make due allow-
ance for this state of things, and take what I tell you about
Rome for no more than it is worth under such conditions ;
for the mind here is as easily wearied as the body; and,
whereas I might probably stand ten Titians a day in a
tonic climate, one feeble Guido, assisted by the Sirocco, will
almost knock me up. I think I confined myself in my last
letter to expressing my disappointment at the facades of the


churches and of the ladies in Rome, mentioning that I had
not as yet seen the latter under the best circumstances.

During the past fortnight however I have had the best
opportunities of revising my first impressions. A. de Vere
and Mr. Monsell have been exceedingly kind in taking me
about among a society which has interested me much more
than anything else in Rome. Can you believe that I, who
allow myself only two parties a year in England, have been
attending an average of nearly two a night in Rome ! As
it is Lent, the Roman Principessas and Marchesas have
not much gaiety at their own houses, but they give quiet
" receptions " and go to the parties of the English ; and the
other night I had a deliberate view of every lady in Rome
at the reception at the French Embassy. Beauty of coun-
tenance is rare, except in the English, and among them
even there are not nearly so many beauties as there ought
to be considering their number and class. A bevy of
Roman ladies splendidly dressed — and they do dress very
splendidly, for their education, I am told, is confined
almost exclusively to the culture of that science — is a thing
of itself, if you look upon it in the aggregate and not in
detail. They have grand, fully developed figures, and even
the commonest women often carry their heads with a style
which is worthy of a duchess. But, if you look at their faces
separately, the charm diminishes ; and a bed of violets by
one of the more splendid sort of hearts-eases is the fit like-
ness for a company of English beauties by one of Roman.
It is curious, however, that a Roman woman, when she
does happen to be beautiful, is singularly so. The absence
of mental culture, which gives forty-nine Roman women
out of fifty a look of vulgarity, causes in the fiftieth the
most charming look of childlike innocence. I never saw this
combination of dignity of figure and feature with baby-
sweetness to the same extent in any woman — except one
— out of Rome. The insecurity of money in most other
forms has caused the Roman nobles to invest enormous
sums in diamonds for their wives. These magnificent
decorations do not become countenances like cook-maids,
but they are very piquant additions to the exceptional
beauties, who, for all their stately necks, great dark eyes,
and grand Roman noses, smile as if they thought nothing
so nice as a lump of sugar or a kiss, and would willingly
give their hundred-thousand-pounds necklace or diadem


for a hoop or a skipping rope. In Roman society the
women are in the enjoyment of an advantage which might
well be envied by the women of other countries ; I mean
the setting off of their gay dresses and white shoulders by
the contrasting crowd of Cardinals, Monsignori, and
smaller ecclesiastics, who form so large a portion of every
Roman party, and who appear to have, in virtue of their
exceptional position, that privilege of freer and gayer con-
verse with the women which in England is accorded to
cousins. I remarked the other night to a lady that, though
I could understand the manifest pleasure with which the
Sacred College and the rest chatted with the women, the
preference the women showed for them was unaccountable
to me. She assured me the women's pleasure consisted
wholly in the thought of the penances their partners would
have to enter upon next day. I do not however believe
this : the real reason no doubt is that the Cardinals and
Priests are by very much the pleasantest, best-informed,
and most conversable people in Rome. The manners of
one or two of the Cardinals, with whom I have had the
pleasure of talking, are the most perfect I have met with. I
have seen equal — never superior — refinement in other men,
but seldom in combination with it so kindly a simplicity.
Certainly Roman Catholicism has some claims (I do not
know how much the claims may be worth) to be called, as
it has been, " the religion of gentlemen." I have the good
fortune to be acquainted with many gentlemen among Pro-
testants, but almost all the educated Catholics I know are
such — a remark, I think, I made to you long before I
thought of coming to Rome — and their gentleness is
usually more gentle than a Protestant's, and seems to have
more good will and humility in it. This remark applies
quite as truly to English as to other Catholics, and I do
not see that its interest is affected by the question as to
whether the disposition which produces this difference is
the cause or the consequence of the form of religion, I
have made several acquaintances among the English
Catholics here, from whom it will be a real regret to part.
Lord and Lady Feilding would delight you, I am sure : they
are both very young and very handsome, and seem to be
as simple and good as they are circumstantially happy. In
conversing with her especially, I feel quite disgusted at
being a " heretic." Of all the characteristics of what I will


call Roman Catholic manners the most attractive to me is
the essentially un-English absence of reserve in speaking of
subjects of the dearest and highest interest, combined with
the equally un-English absence of cant. With my usual
impartiality however I will tell you about a funny Catholic,
who was my vis-a-vis at a restaurant a day or two ago. He
was a young German, and had exactly the air and the look
of the ideal puritan of Hudibras or Scott. I had ordered
some soup, which was put before him by mistake. He had
crossed himself and had closed his eyes for some time with
a ludicrous expression of acid ecstasy, and on opening them
beheld under his nose a basin of soup which was not
" maigre." He raised his hands in the air, crossed himself
again, and commanded the waiter to remove the pollution
from his sight, in a way which I am afraid made me smile
in spite of myself But when a lady passed near us and
he looked at her with exactly the same expression and
crossed himself again, and, after a few minutes, twisted
his chair right round to have another look at her and
again crossed himself with eyes closed in disgust and acid
ecstasy, I had to turn away and blow my nose vociferously.
I told de Vere, w'ho laughed as heartily as you probably

My kind friends here have acted with such energy upon
a word I let drop the first day I came, to the effect that I
felt more interest in persons than in things, that I actually
at the present moment know more people in Rome than I
do in England. I have to lift my hat to every third carriage
in the Pincian Gardens, not to speak of no less notable
persons on foot, and some — friars — on barefoot. I have a
serious difficulty in remembering all their names and
qualities ; but was comforted for my ill-bred memory
yesterday, when A. de Vere asked me — who was a certain
lady I was talking with? and I was able to reply that all I
knew of her was that he had introduced me to her the day

A very pleasant quality of the Roman people generally is
their uncensoriousness and freedom from petty curiosity.
This must make Rome a delightful place for people of a
nervous temperament to live in. In the streets nobody
takes any notice of anybody else. De V^ere, who knows
the place like his native land, says that a man might walk
on his head, and no Roman would think or say other than


that that happened to be his taste, and that he had a right
to it. This quaHty arises from no surly indifference. I
have already discovered a very fine vein of true courtesy
in the national manners. The waiters at the restaurants
inquire with real interest — lowering-browed revolutionists
as they look — if your omelette was nice, and the footman
who opens his master's carriage door wishes him, as he
steps out to his dinner party, a good appetite, with the
utmost respect.

So much for the persons in Rome. In my next, I will
tell you something about the things. I have not taken
lodgings as you advised me to do ; because, though I am in a
big hotel, I do not come into contact with its " splendid
discomforts." When I do not dine with my friends I get
my food at a restaurant where few but men go ; for I can-
not bear to see the French and American women at the
table d'hote picking their teeth with wooden skewers.
Will you kindly save for me the costly Roman postage by
putting heads on the enclosed notes? I have unfortunately
not brought any English stamps with me. Give my kind
regards to Dr. Jackson and Julia, and believe me,

My dear Mrs. Jackson,

Ever truly yours,

C. Patmore.


April 24th, 18S5.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

I am exceedingl)- grieved to see in the paper the
news of the death of Mr. Vaughan. You have lost in him
not only a dear and near relative but one of a great and lofty
mind, most rare — I might almost say literally, singular —
in these days. His was the only truly judicial mind, as far
as I know, of my time : he was the only man who, having
a seeing eye, lived far enough away from the world to be
able to discern clearly whither it was drifting. I never could
blame his silence. The silence of such men is the only
rebuke which the world, in its present state, has a chance
of understanding. As to your private grief, you will have
learned ere this that no one can live the ordinary course of
life without discovering that it is a series of tragedies; but
you are too nearly related in mind as well as family to him


you have lost not to have also discovered that tragedy is
at once the fact and the solution of evil. Believe me,
My dear Mrs. Jackson,
Your true friend,

Coventry Patmore.

The following is to Mrs. Jackson's son-in-law :


April 2nd, 1887.
My Dear Fisher,

Your news of the death of my kind old friend Dr.
Jackson, does not take me with so much surprise as it would
have done had I not been greatly struck by the sudden
change which I thought I saw in him the last time I was
at Brighton — about a month ago. I shall always remember
with affection and respect the gentle and good man, who
never, in the five and twenty years of my acquaintance,
uttered an unkind word about any one in my hearing. I
will not write to Mrs. Jackson — letters are usually so much
worse than vain at such times; but she will not think that
I feel the less for what she must suffer from such a loss,
coming upon her when she is in a condition of so much

physical weakness

Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.


April 15, 1887.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

Your letter reached me just after mine — asking if I
might go to see you on ^Monday — was posted.

It is because my own experience enables me so well to
understand yours that I have not ventured to write to you

It is in the nature of things that we should not know
how much we love until we have lost.

I always looked upon your husband as having long
attained that serene and thorough goodness which I have
been all my life in vain endeavouring to reach. He had
that finished goodness which is spoken of by St. James,
"If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man."


I never heard him say a single careless or unkind word,
and have never seen him without feeling rebuked by such
gentle perfection.

The only time I ever heard him depart in tone from his
exquisite " moderation in all things," was once, some fifteen
years ago, in speaking of you; which he did with the pure
and tender pride and admiration of a young lover, and in a
strain of words like that of a practised and reticent Poet.
Hoping to be allowed to see you on Monday, believe me,
Dear Mrs. Jackson,

Yours affectionately.

Coventry Patmore.


July 25th, 1887.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

It was very friendly of you to remember my birth-
day. It is curious that, at 64, I find myself in every way
better in health than I have ever been before, and almost
as strong in muscle. We have made the terrace into an
archery-ground, and I find I can shoot with the strongest
bow at a target 80 yards off just as well as I could at
Heron's Ghyll 20 years ago. And, on the whole, I find
myself happier than I have ever been. Piffie is a continual
delight, beyond all I ever dreamt of; and if I have few
other keener pleasures, I have much more peace of mind.
Believe me.

My dear Mrs. Jackson,
Yours affectionately,

Coventry Patmore.


March 9th, 1888.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

Mrs. Procter's death, though she was ^y, was a
surprise. She was a wonderful woman. When I last saw
her, a few months ago, she did not look sixty, and had the
spirits and energy of forty.

Yours ever truly,
C. Patmore.



July 25, 1890.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

I should have replied sooner to your kind remem-
brance of me, only I was in London all day yesterday.
As usual I have to congratulate myself, every birthday, on
finding myself happier than I was on the last. The more
unnecessary everything becomes to one, the more one's
capacity for enjoying everything is increased, and the more
one returns to a childish pleasure in life. At sixty-seven
I begin again to see the daisies as I saw them sixty years
ago. But besides this increase of capacity for happiness,
I have more circumstantial blessings than ever I had, —
better health, freedom from worldly anxieties, two or three
friends — yourself not least — whose dearness grows with
time, innocent and loving wife and children, with plenty of
leisure to enjoy them, and innumerable other blessings, —
all doubled by a readiness to part with them all, when the
unknown season comes.

Yours ever affectionately,
Coventry Patmore.

November 4, 1890.
My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

I am trying to write another book of " Essayettes "
like the last, but get on very slowly. I cannot get up any
ardour for prose, such as used to make me work often six-
teen hours a day on poetry. One hour a day is as much
as I can force myself to work.

Yours affectionately,

Coventry Patmore.


March 6, 1891.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

The three articles in the Anti-Jacobin are chapters
from a little book I am writing — probably not to be
published in my lifetime. They are the only extracts
which were suitable to the Paper, in which I shall not, or
rather cannot write regularly, as I should like to do ; for
the utter uselessness of such writing: as I can write, in face


of the " great mud deluge " which is sweeping away all
that is worth living for, weighs continually on my heart,
and paralyses my pen.

Yours ever truly,

Coventry Patmore.

The followinof letter w^as written to Mrs. Herbert
Fisher on the death of her mother, Mrs. Jackson :


April 5th, 1892.

My Dear Mary,

You must guess too well what it is to me to have
lost the dearest friend I had, to think that I can say any-
thing adequate about it. I have had the prayers of the
Church offered for her ; but if, as St. Augustine says, " love
supersedes all the sacraments" — to live up to one's best
lights is the essence of religion — she cannot require them.

Ever affectionately yours,
Coventry Patmore.



I HAVE placed the following letters to Dr.
Garnett next to those addressed to Mrs. Jack-
son, as some of them carry Patmore's Roman
experiences down to a later date, and show how he
gradually became reconciled to the city and its in-
stitutions — a change of sentiment which must in

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 36)